marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

Heaven, Hell, and other poor settings

"First he had a little soup and then he had a little tea.  Then he wound his watch and said now he was done with time and had to turn to eternity."

I quote from memory, but this particular description of a death bed neatly encapsulates the problem with using Heaven or Hell as locations, because stories are wed to time, because they are wed to change.


C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce perhaps came the closest to managing a story outside time, because it is very clear that most of the Ghosts are going to stay damned, but the context is a chance to change, and one of them does take it.  (And the scene where Lewis tries to depict for a moment the reality of the matter is the weakest part of the book.)

Other books, usually set in what is called Hell, tend to depict it as a place where change is  possible.  Even reform and escape.  Sometimes it is obviously and blatantly a misnomer to call it Hell at all:  in both intent and effect, it's Purgatory.

Though I have read a work set with a Chinese Heaven and Hell, both of which are just waystations where you hang out a bit before you come back for reincarnation.  That works.  It's trying to pull off a final Heaven and Hell that complicates life.
Tags: setting (whole story), story time, world-building: metaphysics
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