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The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce

4.4 141
by C. S. Lewis

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C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce is a classic Christian allegorical tale about a bus ride from hell to heaven. An extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment, Lewis’s revolutionary idea in the The Great Divorce is that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Using his extraordinary descriptive powers, Lewis’


C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce is a classic Christian allegorical tale about a bus ride from hell to heaven. An extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment, Lewis’s revolutionary idea in the The Great Divorce is that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Using his extraordinary descriptive powers, Lewis’ The Great Divorce will change the way we think about good and evil. 

Editorial Reviews

“Much deserves to be quoted... attractive imagery, amusing satire, exciting speculations... Lewis rouses curiosity about life after death only to sharpen awareness of this world.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.36(d)
Age Range:
16 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Great Divorce

Chapter One

I seemed to be standing in a busy queue by the side of a long, mean street. Evening was just closing in and it was raining. I had been wandering for hours in similar mean streets, always in the rain and always in evening twilight. Time seemed to have paused on that dismal moment when only a few shops have lit up and it is not yet dark enough for their windows to look cheering. And just as the evening never advanced to night, so my walking had never brought me to the better parts of the town. However far I went I found only dingy lodging houses, small tobacconists, hoardings from which posters hung in rags, windowless warehouses, goods stations without trains, and bookshops of the sort that sell The Works of Aristotle. I never met anyone. But for the little crowd at the bus stop, the whole town seemed to be empty. I think that was why I attached myself to the queue.

I had a stroke of luck right away, for just as I took my stand a little waspish woman who would have been ahead of me snapped out at a man who seemed to be with her, 'Very well, then. I won't go at all. So there,' and left the queue. 'Pray don't imagine,' said the man, in a very dignified voice, 'that I care about going in the least. I have only been trying to please you, for peace sake. My own feelings are of course a matter of no importance, I quite understand that' — and suiting the action to the word he also walked away. 'Come,' thought I, 'that's two places gained.' I was now next to a very short man. with a scowl who glanced at me with an expression of extreme disfavour and observed, rather unnecessarily loudly, to the man beyondhim, 'This sort of thing really makes one think twice about going at all.' 'What sort of thing?' growled the other, a big beefy person. 'Well,' said the Short Man, 'this is hardly the sort of society I'm used to as a matter of fact.' 'Huh!' said the Big Man: and then added with a glance at me, 'Don't you stand any sauce from him, Mister. You're not afraid of him, are you?' Then, seeing I made no move, he rounded suddenly on the Short Man and said, 'Not good enough for you, aren't we? Like Your lip.' Next moment he had fetched the Short Man one on the side of the face that sent him sprawling into the gutter. 'Let him lay, let him lay,' said the Big Man to no one in particular. 'I'm a plain man that's what I am and I got to have my rights same as anyone else, see?' As the Short Man showed no disposition to rejoin the queue and soon began limping away, I closed up, rather cautiously, behind the Big Man and congratulated myself on having gained yet another step. A moment later two young people in front of him also left us arm in arm. They were both so trousered, slender, giggly and falsetto that I could be sure of the sex of neither, but it was clear that each for the moment preferred the other to the chance of a place in the bus. 'We shall never all get in,' said a female voice with a whine in it from some four places ahead of me. 'Change places with you for five bob, lady,' said someone else. I heard the clink of money and then a scream in the female voice, mixed with roars of laughter from the rest of the crowd. The cheated woman leaped out of her place to fly at the man who had bilked her, but the others immediately closed up and flung her out... So what with one thing and another the queue had reduced itself to manageable proportions long before the bus appeared.

It was a wonderful vehicle, blazing with golden light, heraldically coloured. The Driver himself seemed full of light and he used only one hand to drive with. The other he waved before his face as if to fan away the greasy steam of the rain. A growl went up from the queue as he came in sight. 'Looks as if he had a good time of it, eh?... Bloody pleased with himself, I bet... My dear, why can't he behave naturally? — Thinks himself too good to look at us... Who does he imagine he is?... All that gilding and purple, I call it a wicked waste. Why don't they spend some of the money on their house property down here? — God! I'd like to give him one in the ear-'ole.' I could see nothing in the countenance of the Driver to justify all this, unless it were that he had a look of authority and seemed intent on carrying out his job.

My fellow passengers fought like hens to get on board the bus though there was plenty of room for us all. I was the last to get in. The bus was only half full and I selected a seat at the back, well away from the others. But a touslehaired youth at once came and sat down beside me. As he did so we moved off.

'I thought you wouldn't mind my tacking on to you,' he said, 'for I've noticed that you feel just as I do about the present company. Why on earth they insist on coming I can't imagine. They won't like it at all when we get there, and they'd really be much more comfortable at home. It's different for you and me.'

'Do they like this place?' I asked.

'As much as they'd like anything,' he answered. . .

The Great Divorce. Copyright (c) by C. Lewis . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and have been transformed into three major motion pictures.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) fue uno de los intelectuales más importantes del siglo veinte y podría decirse que fue el escritor cristiano más influyente de su tiempo. Fue profesor particular de literatura inglesa y miembro de la junta de gobierno en la Universidad Oxford hasta 1954, cuando fue nombrado profesor de literatura medieval y renacentista en la Universidad Cambridge, cargo que desempeñó hasta que se jubiló. Sus contribuciones a la crítica literaria, literatura infantil, literatura fantástica y teología popular le trajeron fama y aclamación a nivel internacional. C. S. Lewis escribió más de treinta libros, lo cual le permitió alcanzar una enorme audiencia, y sus obras aún atraen a miles de nuevos lectores cada año. Sus más distinguidas y populares obras incluyen Las Crónicas de Narnia, Los Cuatro Amores, Cartas del Diablo a Su Sobrino y Mero Cristianismo.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
November 29, 1898
Date of Death:
November 22, 1963
Place of Birth:
Belfast, Nothern Ireland
Place of Death:
Headington, England
Oxford University 1917-1923; Elected fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925

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Great Divorce 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 141 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
CS Lewis is an extremely talented individual and I think The Great Divorce is a perfect example of his gift and his craft. He has taken the subject of Heaven and Hell, a subject that it usually 'black and white,' and had added several different shades of gray. It's as though he wants the subject matter to be attainable to his readers. He has created characters that are real and believeable - not only because of his descriptive nature but because you may know any one of those characters. This book really makes you think and it leaves you with a new perspective. I strongly recommend this book. It's a great, quick read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ever observant and insightful, Lewis has taken mankind's major shortcomings and embodied them in a group of ghosts from Hell. Each of the doomed spirits is given the opportunity to shake off the chains of purgatory and respond to the invitation given by the heavenly host to 'come and feed'; in turn, each ghost finds one excuse or another why they cannot possibly do so. Through the eyes of the narrator, we witness those who hold themselves back because of fear, pride, selfishness, cynicism, ignorance, and blindness. Ultimately, Lewis' story hails individual choice as the chief determinant of where we will belong in the eternities: 'no soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.' Whether a warning to or a reflection on society, the book stimulates thought and forces the reader to look inward at their own weaknesses. Far from being pessimistic, however, the book leaves us with the notion that change, while perhaps difficult and even painful, is indeed possible. Lewis gives us a small glimpse of how the celestials might view and value important qualities such as joy, freedom, forgiveness, charity, and love. In the end, we are reminded that to live in a celestial environment, one must forego the telestial perspective.
Frank Yanan More than 1 year ago
I first read this book my freshman year of high school. I was disappointed. Then, the opportunity to read it again arose when I was a senior and I fell in love with it. It's a simple book that deals with the not-so-simple topics of heaven and hell. This book, written by an amazing critic and author, is one to read and understand and think about for years to come. Please take my advice and read this book! You won't regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
William Blake wrote of the marriage of heaven and hell, in this splendid fantasy novel Lewis becomes judicator of the divorce. The narrator joins a bus queue in a perpetual sunset town and takes a trip to heaven where any can stay and go to the mountains if they let go of their selfishness. Lewis hits the mark at describing our fallen psychology. As Dante had Virgil as guide so our narrator has Scottish author George MacDonald along on the tour. MacDonald trying to explain the choice of the lost says: 'Milton was right,'... 'The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words, 'Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.' ..... There is always something they prefer to joy --- that is, to reality.' The people from hell are shades as they all quickly discover on leaving the bus. The grass, trees, and even the water are solid and the shades from hell leave no impression. Conversely the new environment does effect them, one example being that rain drops would blast holes in them like a machine gun. The heavenly region they visit is much larger than hell although they don't realize it. 'All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World.' The reason hell is so small is that it is so full of mostly nothing. The insistence on self will leads eventually to the person becoming more and more unreal. The narrator, who is really Lewis of course, asks MacDonald about his being a Universalist, that he talked in his books as if all men would be saved. Paraphrased MacDonald says something like: Doctrines such as universalism or even predestination may be true in eternity from God's perspective and paradoxically not true in time where freedom operates and the choice of ways is before you. In eternity it may be as our Lord told Lady Julian of Norwich 'that all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.'
Stephen_Kerr More than 1 year ago
This is a brilliant book. It touches upon the courage needed to let go of the things that hold us/pin us to the earth. It is a metaphor about how our journey here continues eternally. I could not put it down once I started reading it--perhaps the best of Lewis is right here in this book. If you want to be inspired, nudged towards the courage to let go and move ahead--this is for you! Stephen
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is actually my first CS Lewis book. I enjoyed it very much and it did make me think of my motivations in this life. The struggle between my kingdom and God's kingdom is a moment by moment battle. Can't wait to read more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Over and over again I'd heard this title. . . the Great Divorce. It is brief for the short of attention span but something that should really be read over and over again until we tear away at the coverings of story and plot and find the message and the intention. I'm a teenager but that does not prevent me from ever turning away. You don't need to be Christian, only believe in change, in choices, in some sort of divine something. IT's so well written in orderto express his message, and certainly leaves any reader wtih a responsibility no other can bear. You can feel the horror of WWII at least in part driving the words. REad it, read it again and grow with it. IT's amazing what one can learn on a bus trip through heaven. The vision we see through the windows is far more potent than fire and brimstone, and far more pressing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book masterfully examines a lot of the excuses that we give when struggling with the absolute concepts in Christianity. It was funny in places and not so funny in others. Highly relatable in most instances and worth not just one read but a second one to mine for the nuances I might have missed the first time because I was digesting one concept.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The question of how a loving God can condem people to hell has been the cause of much argument. Some arguments are easier to swallow than others. Others are just plain offensive. I personally get tired of the old God knows best line. I also get tired of the boring and complicated theological explanations many pastors are likly to give. C.S. Lewis places an excelante visual spin on this question. I think his explanation is swallowable though still slightly offensive. I really enjoyed this book's story and the answer to this hard question. This is more of a good story than some sermon. I definately recomend this book.
bennash More than 1 year ago
I am blown away! What a profound story with so much depth and meaning! It is so sad, eye opening, and yet so good it made me smile at the end. :) (A story about heaven and hell), this book has given me a different perspective on eternity, immortality, lost souls, and seeking God and enjoying Him. I thought I wouldn't highlight much of the book being a narrative, but there were so many deep truths you can pull from this book. This book reminds me of one of C.S. Lewis' quotes: "...we are far too easily pleased." Read this book. It's beautiful.
Zor-El More than 1 year ago
C. S. Lewis is a master. I have yet to read one of his works and not find myself thinking about for the next several weeks.
Joy Coaxum More than 1 year ago
This was an absulutely marvelous book. the characters and imagry keep you on the edge of your seat. i hardly put it down until i was done.
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C.S. Lewis never disappoints.
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Tara-WA More than 1 year ago
C.S Lewis is such an insightful and awesome author! I love how visual this book is! A must read.
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