“May I kill it?” the angel solemnly asks once again. The ghost balks and becomes uneasy. “May I kill it?” inquires the angel.
Finally, the ghost acquiesces and the angel crushes the life out of the reptile, at which point the ghost begins to harden into something greater and more substantial. And the lizard, thought to be dead, begins to metamorphose into a stately stallion. When both ghost and reptile have been thoroughly transformed, the man mounts the horse and the two ride off together with brio and purpose. The creepy and insinuating reptile is symbolic, it becomes clear, of lust, that vice which continually suggests self-destructive courses of action. Yet not even an angel of God can kill it without the conscious permission of the will. Once killed, however, it can rise into what it originally was meant to be: the erotic desire which is a source of tremendous energy, indeed a stallion which the soul can gleefully ride. What I especially appreciate in this episode is Lewis’ spot-on representation of how the soul clings desperately to what is actually killing it, preferring, in W.H. Auden’s phrase, “to be ruined rather than changed.”
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