The religious imagery in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is impossible to miss and is widely critically debated along with the rest of the “Chronicles of Narnia” Series. There are many moments in this particular installment that have underlying religious or spiritual themes and almost all of these moments are defined by some sort of rebirth and the presence of Aslan.
In the beginning of the story Eustace stands out among the characters as being ungrateful and not fitting in. His character is whiny and selfish but when he is turned into a dragon, Eustace becomes aware of his own pitfalls. He works harder to give back to the group and to help rebuild the ship. The narrator notes, “The pleasure (quite new to him) of being liked, and still more, of liking other people was what kept Eustace from despair. For it was very dreary being a dragon.” (Lewis 108). Eustace has found purpose by being able to give back to the group because he has reformed his personality. But now, instead of not fitting into the group in terms of personality, he is aesthetically ostracized from them. This gap is only bridged once Aslan appears and peels the dragon skin from his body. Eustace says of the experience, “And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place.” (116). Lewis presents his readers with the imagery of a wound that is being exposed to the air. The process of removing the scab is painful but the end result is pure relief.
This can be interpreted religiously to represent Eustace shedding his negative personality traits. However, I also applied a ‘travel interpretation’ to the imagery. The point has been raised a few times that travel helps reveal lenses through which we view the world. These lenses can be both positive and negative. It may be difficult to discover our own “negative” lenses because they often arise from our own biases or prejudices. This exposure is painful because we recognize that we have been incorrect or unjust but this revelation is necessary in order to heal the wound inflicted by it. Like Aslan peels Eustace’s skin off, travel removes dirty lenses from the eyes of the traveler. The discovery of our bias may be uncomfortable or even painful but it is worth it in the end when we receive a more positive lens through which we can view the world.