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Monday, December 08, 2008

George MacDonald on eucatastrophes in literature

Every tragedy of higher order, constructed in Christian times, will correspond more or less to the grand drama of the Bible; wherein the first act opens with a brilliant sunset vision of Paradise, in which childish sense and need are served with all the profusion of the indulgent nurse. But the glory fades off into grey and black, and night settles down upon the heart which, rightly uncontent with the childish, and not having yet learned the childlike, seeks knowledge and manhood as a thing denied by the Maker, and yet to be gained by the creature; so sets forth alone to climb the heavens, and instead of climbing, falls into the abyss. Then follows the long dismal night of feverish efforts and delirious visions, or, it may be, helpless despair; till at length a deeper stratum of the soul is heaved to the surface; and amid the first dawn of morning, the youth says within him, "I have sinned against my Maker—I will arise and go to my Father." More or less, I say, will Christian tragedy correspond to this—a fall and a rising again; not a rising only, but a victory; not a victory merely, but a triumph. Such, in its way and degree, is my story. I have shown, in one passing scene, the home paradise; now I have to show a scene of a far differing nature. George MacDonald, "The Broken Swords," from Adela Cathcart, Volume II, originally published in 1864, hence public domain, and previously published in The Monthly Christian Spectator, 1854. Recently republished in The Gifts of the Child Christ, Vol. II (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973)

Here MacDonald foreshadows Tolkien's concept of eucatastrophe -- a seeming catastrophe which turns out, in the end, for the better. Tolkien said that the Incarnation, and the resurrection, of Christ were the greatest eucatastrophes.

Thanks for reading.


Julana said...

the eyes of faith. . . .

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks. Yes.