by C.S. Lewis
to The Divine Comedy
follows a busload of the damned to Heaven
. When they get there, they are as fragile ghost
s - a walk across a field of grass pierces their feet, and drops of spray from a waterfall are as dangerous as bullets to them. At every turn, the heavenly welcoming committee
urge them to stay, to put aside the resentments and demands from mortal life and grow more real
in God's Kingdom
. Almost none of them do; some can't drop their mortal resentment
against other fellow sinners, some demand position
; and some scheme to annex
Heaven, or plunder its treasures for their own petty ends in Hell. One intellectual denies the doctrine of Heaven and Hell, even as he stands within Heaven's compass; he can hardly wait for the bus to take him back so he can discuss his experience with his philosophical society
The symbolism of the damned being too "small" or petty to accept Heaven's conditions is illustrated most clearly in the Golden Apple scene: one wretch, on discovering a perfect golden apple, struggles in vain to drag it back to the bus. As insubstantial as he is, and as densely Real as it is, he knows it would be the only real thing (hence the only thing of any value) in Hell. An angel warns him, to the effect that all Hell is too small to contain even one seed of an apple of this most real of worlds. Another angel invites the narrator to take a look at the abyss through which the bus entered Heaven, and it turns out to be just a tiny hole in the dirt.
The Divine Comedy speaks of "the Marriage of Heaven and Hell", the reconciliation of ego with obedience to God. It's a lovely idea, and not the first literature to suggest that damnation might not be so eternal. Lewis found the idea nonsensical - rather, he felt, damned souls are damned because they refuse to reconcile to God, and He so values Free Will that He even suffers them to sustain a dismal little hole where they may choose to avoid His Presence. It's not an indication of a sadistic nature on God's part, but instead reflects the self-limiting nature of those who choose to stay there.