The Great Divorce opens with an unnamed narrator in the “grey town.” He soon boards a bus for those who wish to leave and, upon departure, realizes he is a ghost in the afterlife on a “vacation” from Hell.
The rest of the novel involves conversations in which the spirits of Heaven try to convince the ghosts of Hell to join them in paradise. This gives rise to the revolutionary idea that the gates of Hell are only locked from the inside and that those who want to leave for Heaven may do so at any time—if only their will is strong enough.
The Great Divorce is a response to William Blake’s famous work, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which Blake says that good and evil are but two sides of the same coin and equally necessary to sustain life. C. S. Lewis attempts to refute Blake by explaining the clear difference between Heaven and Hell and by showing that Heaven is the true source of human enlightenment and happiness.
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