Digory is faced with the inevitable choice between Aslan and his Mother.
It had to happen eventually; Digory must choose to either follow the same path as Uncle Andrew (disregarding what’s right in the face of what he wants) or reject it entirely.
Come in by the gold gates or not at all,
Take of my fruit for others or forbear,
For those who steal or those who climb my wall
Shall find their heart’s desire and find despair.
Digory’s heart’s desire is to see his mother healed, which sounds like it couldn’t possibly be wrong for a little boy to want, and maybe it isn’t – but it is wrong to want it so badly that it becomes a standard of right and wrong. That’s how people like Uncle Andrew undoubtedly began: Wanting something good, but refusing to take “no” for an answer, even from God.
Digory takes the fruit for Aslan, but he discovers that the Witch had already gotten into the garden and eaten one of them. She gleefully informs Digory that it’s the apple of youth, and anyone who eats one will be young forever. She wastes her breath on a “we can rule together” spiel, but seeing that Digory’s not interested, she takes a new angle:
“But what of this Mother of yours whom you pretend to love so?”
“What’s she got to do with it?” said Digory.
“Do you not see, Fool, that one bite of that apple would heal her? You have it in your pocket. We are here by ourselves and the Lion is far away. Use your Magic and go back to your own world. A minute later you can be at your Mother’s bedside, giving her the fruit. Five minutes later you will see the color coming back to her face. She will tell you the pain is gone. Soon she will tell you she feels stronger. Then she will fall asleep – think of that; hours of sweet natural sleep, without pain, without drugs. Next day everyone will be saying how wonderfully she has recovered. Soon she will be quite well again. All will be well again. Your home will be happy again. You will be like other boys.”
“Oh!” gasped Digory as if he had been hurt, and put his hand to his head. For he now knew that the most terrible choice lay before him.
It’s heartbreaking, because at this point the reader wants that for Digory, too. But the whole point of this book is that how something is achieved is just as important as what that something is. If he just runs back to his own world and heals his mother, he’d not only be abandoning the task that Aslan gave him, but he’d be leaving Narnia vulnerable to the Witch (which is doubtlessly her intent). Digory finally realizes this when the Witch suggests that he leave Polly behind in Narnia so that no one will know how he got the apple, and tells the Witch off.
Digory never spoke on the way back, and the others were shy of speaking to him. He was very sad and he wasn’t even sure all the time if he had done the right thing; but whenever he remembered the shining tears in Aslan’s eyes he became sure.
Until next time…