I began this chapter with fear and trembling. What could be more difficult to tackle than the nature of evil? Sayers decides to do it within the boundaries of the metaphor of the book and because of those boundaries, she gives a very coherent and helpful picture although you must read the whole chapter to follow her logic. She has a lovely mind.
We also get to see quite a bit of her humor in the chapter.
She first lays out the doctrine of the Manichaeans, who believed that the material is always evil. My own spiritual heritage would not quite say that but it is not a stretch for me to understand this concept. In fact, Sayers says this Manichaean idea makes for a strictly aesthetic view of religion and rejects any form of Sacramentalism. I often myself adrift between suspicion of Sacramentalism and suspicion of aestheticism, although I have grown more comfortable with a liturgy over the years. I suspect that most of us lean one way or the other. Can you see why? I am sure we could discuss this at great length.
On page 97 we find this enlightening quote:
"In the choice of words, for example, the "right" word will not be the morally edifying word, but the word which "rightly" embodies his Idea, whether the Idea itself is morally good, evil, or "beyond good and evil For him, engaged in his creative act, "good" is good craftsmanship, "beauty" is artistic beauty, and "truth" is structural truth."
This reminds me of Andrew Kern's use of the word 'appropriate.' His use of the word has helped me define many of my ideas about homeschooling. In fact, this chapter also goes along with the recent discussion of the movie Les Miserables. We asked, "Was the depiction of evil, especially as regards Fantine's fall into prostitution, in the movie appropriate?" I think that the answer to that question is yes but that we must decide for whom it is appropriate.
On the other hand Sayers also says, "Is there, then, within the terms of our analogy, any sense in which we can say that a good writer is the creator of artistic evil-or artistic "wrongness"?" If we accept Victor Hugo's definition of salvation then we must, I think, accept his depiction of evil. I do think we could argue that Hugo's depiction of evil is flawed by his understanding of innocence. In that case it is not the evil which he depicts which is 'wrong' but rather the 'good.'
Sayers then goes on to discuss the idea that once we have Hamlet, we have created a Not-Hamlet. When I was born and named Cindy I also carried with me the attribute of being Cindy-Not-Hamlet. Therefore Sayers surmises that by creating good, God also created not-good.
And since the fall did not happen intellectually but through experience it can only be fixed through an experience.
In the middle of all of this Sayers discusses David Garrick's rewriting of the Shakespearean play Hamlet. Sayers considers this a great act of arrogance or evil. I also have always had trouble reading books which are written in a series after the author is dead. It seems to be the world which the author created is at that point finished. It cannot be recreated by another creator. What do you think? The Internet has introduced a whole slew of material in a genre called Fan Fiction. I have never been able to read it but I know people who find great enjoyment in reading it. I suppose I might even be tempted to rewrite the last season of LOST :) and in fact, Dorothy Sayers' own work has been continued by Jill Paton Walsh. I did read and did not hate Thrones, Dominations but it was based on manuscripts DLS left behind. I have not been able to read any of Walsh's further novels. Have you?
Finally in a moment of wry humor Sayers says that some words are never 'right: "Always excepting, of course, words like "sportsdrome" and "normalcy", which are so steeped in sin that no place is "right" for them, except Hell, or a Dictionary of Barbarisms."
What words do you consider never appropriate? I happen to hate the word 'unpack' and find myself unable to listen to speakers who use it. It marks them as just too cool for my tastes. The word has become a parody of itself and when someone uses it I can only see them drinking coffee and smoking in Portland.*
* A place you go when you have forgotten how to put your tongue in your cheek.