Our next ghost to appear engages Jack himself. Jack/Lewis refers to him as the Hard-Bitten Ghost. “Hard-Bitten” referring to toughened by experience. In life this ghost would have been the ultimate conspiracy nut, not trusting anybody, and always thinking he had the system all figured out. Think Dale Gribble from King of the Hill; though in this book the character is presented as having a little more credibility.
He asks Jack if he is “Thinking of going back?”; as he leans on a tree and chews on a cheroot. (Note: I didn’t know what a cheroot was… so … It’s an inexpensive cigar clipped at both ends during manufacture.) Now that I think about it; I may have heard the term before… Notice he is only chewing on it, not smoking it. Eternity is smoking or non-smoking… he currently in the non-smoking section… 😉
Jack isn’t sure he wants to go back to Hell, but the Hard-Bitten Ghost has “seen about all there is to see” here.
When Jack asks the ghost if it hasn’t thought of staying, his new friends says it’s all a stunt. You can’t eat or drink; and you can barely move about; so staying is out of the question.
When asked why he came in the first place, the Hard-Bitten Ghost explains that he is/was a traveller by nature and wanted to see this place for himself. “Wherever I’ve been I’ve always had a look at anything that was being cracked up.”
In this instance Lewis uses the word “cracked up” in the old English phrase meaning to elevate something as special or worth seeing. Thus the surviving phrase “not all it’s cracked up to be.”
The ghost start listing all the places he’s been to (on Earth); but gives few details. When asked what these wonders of the world were like he states “They’re all advertisement stunts. All run by the same people.” He mentions “a World Combine” which in today’s vernacular would be “The Man”! According to our Hard-Bitten Ghost, on Earth, The Man just set up tourists traps all over the world. It didn’t really matter where, because it is the publicity that makes them work.
These advertisement stunts worked on everybody else; but our Hard-Bitten Ghost was above it. He saw things as they really were; saw what was really going on behind the scenes and because of this nothing was ever “all it’s cracked up to be.”
What’s more, The Man isn’t limited to Earthly tourist traps; the conspiracy even stretches to encompass Heaven and Hell! Want proof? Hell was “cracked up” to be all “red fire and devils and all sorts of interesting people sizzling on grids… but when you get there it’s just like any other town.” What a rip!
And Heaven! “It’s as good as any other park to look at, and darned uncomfortable.” Where are the streets of gold, the pearly gates, and the mansions! We’ve been had!
Defending Heaven, Jack offers that there seems to be the idea that if you stay in Heaven you acclimate and “get solider.”
(Aside: I half expect a guy (named Dennis) scrounging in mud to pipe in here and say “You’re fooling yourself! We’re living in a dictatorship!” Again… a Monty Python reference.)
Life Equals One Lie After Another
The ghosts answer here begins to make apparent his fatal flaw; which is his inability to trust anything other than himself. He’s been lied to and deceived so many times in his life; trust is now beyond him, even in death. He explains to Jack that he knows all about that (acclimating to Heaven) and it’s the same old lie he’s heard all his life.
♦ In the nursery he was told “if I were good, I’d be happy”
♦ At school he was told “Latin would get easier as I went on”
♦ After marriage he was told that “with Tact and Patience I’d soon ‘settle down’ and like it”
♦ And during two wars he was told the “good time coming if only I’d be a brave boy and go on being shot at”
Nothing has changed for the Hard Bitten ghost; even after death. “The Man” who pushed all those lies in his life still runs the show now. “Of course they’ll play the old game here if anyone’s fool enough to listen.” Well he’s no fool!
Jack asks the obvious question from the conspiracy theorist; “Who are They?” Who is “The Man”? And is there some chance he’s not running this show?
The ghosts will have none of it. “They” are always the same people and are always the ones running the show. They were the profiteers in the war. They are behind the corrupt religions of the Jews and the Catholics not to mention all governments; even Heaven and Hell. They are stealing our money, pitting us against each other, killing people, and laughing at us.
It’s funny that this book was written right after World War II; but you hear the exact same crap today.
♦ Bush lied, people died.
♦ The Jews and/or the US government were really behind 911.
♦ He was a member of the (pick your organization… Skull and Bones, the Masons, etc…) and they run the show.
♦ Halliburton instigates and profits off wars.
♦ Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen; he’s a closet Muslim and Jihadists.
The Hard-Bitten Ghost laments that if Heaven and Hell were really at war; Heaven could overrun Hell and rescue its inhabitants. They don’t do it because it’s a scam with those in control playing both sides. He never stops to reason out what “The Man” would be getting out of such an arrangement.
What Would You Do Differently
When asked what he would do if he had some say in the matter, the Hard Bitten Ghost is indignant. It’s not his job to come up with a better plan. The ghost does not want to adapt to his surroundings or circumstances; but would rather the universe to adapt to him. This is almost like a toddler throwing a fit.
Why should I change to accept paradise, the forces that run paradise should come and rescue me and take me as I am. They obviously have the resources and the means; so the fact that they haven’t done it is proof of a conspiracy. And since there is a conspiracy, there is nothing to do at this tourist trap, nor is there anything to do in Hell. “They’ve got you either way.”
This ghost works in two mediums; depression and fear. He has succeeded in thoroughly depressing Jack, but before he leaves; he informs Jack of something he hasn’t thought of. What if it rains hear. Each solid “raindrop will make a hole in you, like a machine-gun bullet.” It’s bound to happen because “I never saw one of these bright mornings that didn’t turn to rain later on.” So now Jack is depressed and afraid as his friend moves off.
Is it English weather? I’ve rarely seen a bright morning turn to rain later on. Bright mornings usually result in bright sunny days in Texas. I guess I do remember in Florida, during the summer, it rained every day at 2:07 PM. 🙂 Maybe this guy is from there. But I think Lewis was making an absurd statement here to show the Hard-Bitten ghost was not being rational in his argument.
No Spirit Guide Here
I will again point out that this is another ghost who was not visited by a spirit guide; or at least it was not described in the book. Again the question is “Was Lewis implying something here?” Was this ghost not of the right mind-set to warrant a guide? Or, perhaps is he to be approached later on.
The Hard-Bitten Ghost is very disappointed with how his life and after-life have turned out. He has decided that nothing he has ever been told was true; and nothing was ever his fault since the cards were always stacked against him. He has found a scape-goat; conveniently the same scape-goat in both worlds. And now he seems intent on moving about the afterlife complaining about the injustice and convincing others that he is right with no objectives other than spreading despair and fear.
Chapter 7 of The Great Divorce – 1180 words – 6252 characters.
Lynn Commentary on Chapter 7 – 1427 words – 7832 characters (some of it HTML formatting).