The Problem of Susan

The White Witch


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The Problem of Susan is a short story that Neil Gaiman wrote to explore his discomfort with the way that the character of Susan was left out of Narnia (a metaphor for heaven) at the end of the Narnia chronicles. C.S. Lewis expressed that Susan’s character represented someone who disposed of their Christian beliefs, and would therefore be left out of the afterlife. However, his poor attitudes to women and modern interpretations lead to her arc coming off as shaming women for leaving childhood behind by taking on adult life, including sexuality.

Neil Gaiman has stated that The Problem of Susan explores the idea that Aslan and The White Witch are Gods – Old Testament gods at that. I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of an external power, such as a god being in control of my decision making, which is the reason that I now understand I didn’t like the Narnia books as a child – I didn’t like being coerced. This story expressed to me the themes I wanted to look at as I enter adult life; autonomy, sexuality, religion, femininity and perfection. I will take a literal and fantastical approach to expressing the Witch, Aslan and Mary Poppins as power hungry gods, by combing Catholic imagery (derived from my own childhood) with aspects of other Gods from different world religions that have malicious aspects, used to have power over humans. The main feeling I wanted to build around these three characters was a sense of power. In contrast, the children’s designs express their vulnerability. Old woman Susan will retain some of the character traits that she held as a child in her costume. Such as, I will be including daisies in her costume in both time periods (and the rest of the children and Aslan’s mane) as they represent childhood innocence to me (therefore Narnia) however, they will be wilted now she is aged. To express who she has become now I will include elements of her adult life, such as a colour palate based on Chanel No.5 (the only luxury she allows herself) as this has connotations of the sexuality and independence she has taken on as an adult.

White and Gold (and the paradoxical symbolism of what these colours mean culturally) will be the main base colour palate for this project, culminating in the eventual clash of two opposing perfections.

The Problem of Susan - Neil Gaiman