A Grief Observed Essay - Critical Context

Critical Context

Although it has been compared in tone and theme to the elegiac tradition in general and to Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1850) in particular, and although its rough similarity to the Book of Job has been noted, A Grief Observed has received relatively little attention from critics. Some admirers of Lewis’ writing seem to be uncomfortable with the strong language used for the diarist’s anger against God and therefore prefer to separate Lewis from the crisis of faith experienced by the diarist. Lewis is, however, always too large to fit into predetermined patterns. The range of his writings reaches from scholarly literary works to children’s fiction, from Christian apologetics to adult science fiction. Some readers have seen in Lewis’ Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (1956) a partial portrait and a tribute to the living Joy Davidman; A Grief Observed stands alone among his works, however, as an extended, elegiac lament for his lost loved one. In this mature diary, he unites feeling and reason in a work that bares the soul of a Christian in his doubt and sense of loss. Leaving aside the question of whether Lewis personally experienced the crisis of belief depicted here, this diary is a small jewel of the process of grief that could be Everyman’s. Its plea is that of the father in the Gospel of Mark who brought his son to Jesus to be healed. Upon being told by Jesus that all things are possible to those who believe, the father “cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”