Spoiler-Free Book Review:
The House by the Stable by Charles Williams
Rating: 7 out of 10 stars
This is not one of those books I just picked up for the fun of it. It was actually a required text for my Modern Christian Writers class, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it!
Although some Christian works appeal to people of all religions as well as those who embrace no religion, this is likely one that will almost exclusively be appealing to Christians.
Charles Williams is a British playwright, novelist, poet, and theologian. He was also a member of the Inklings, a group in which J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were also members.
Some of his other works that I have read include War in Heaven and Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury.
The House by the Stable is an allegorical play about a man who courts Pride both literally and figuratively, and unknowingly engages in a battle for his soul against Hell. He also alludes to the innkeeper from the Bible who refused Joseph and Mary a room but offered them a place in the stable.
- Compelling dialogue
- Unexpected choices when it comes to characters
- The Christmas Story from a different point of view
- Strong message
- Powerful understanding of how Pride can corrupt and change a man
- A testament to the value of grace in a Christian’s life
- A little heavy-handed with the message
- The perfection of the good characters and the extreme wickedness of the bad ones mean that the only relatable character is Man.
The dialogue of this play contributes to its long-lasting value and immediate appeal to readers. For instance, this is what Man’s mistress–fittingly named Pride–says when she is asked why she adores Man so much:
It is no surprise–if you think what you are. Indeed, it were stranger if I adored you less. You are Man, the lord of this great house Earth, or (as its name is called in my country) Sin; you are its god and mine.”
You can tell immediately that Pride is a dangerous character–not only does she pretend to worship Man, she also encourages him to worship himself. Her influence on Man has caused him to lose his friends and to think only of himself. This is undoubtedly a toxic relationship–and that’s the point–that humankind’s relationship with pride is unhealthy and damaging to one’s self and others.
Having the character who represents the angel Gabriel be just a shuffling butler, “that old gossip of heaven” is an unusual choice.
It was also clever to have Pride be the literal mistress of Man, and for Man to be the man who let Mary and Joseph shelter in his stable.
Point of View
Even though Mary and Joseph and the stable where Jesus is born are all part of this play, the focus is on Man, who is a stand-in for all humans who are trapped in sin.
If I had to pin down the message for this play, I would say it is that the negative aspects of pride are humankind’s worst enemy. Charles Williams treats it as one of the most terrible sins. Pride ruins one’s relationship with others and damages one’s relationship with God.
This quote offers another message that is important:
You are my worshipful sweet Pride; will you be so arrogant always to others and humble to me? Will you always make me believe in myself?”Man
It reveals that self-confidence, while good in reasonable quantities, can be a trap if it is excessive. Overconfidence can be dangerous when it leads to pride and causes one to sin.
This play has some strong insights that made it worthwhile to read, as you saw above. It’s also incredibly short, so if you aren’t a fan, it’s not like you wasted a bunch of time. I would say, give it a try!
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