A Grief Observed Analysis

Form and Content (Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

As both an outspoken Christian and a writer of popular works on the Christian faith, C. S. Lewis found some admirers but perhaps more detractors at the University of Oxford, where he taught English. The Screwtape Letters (1942) and Mere Christianity (1952) enjoyed a wide audience and provoked both disdain and envy. He was, certainly, not without friends. They were, however, almost exclusively male, and until sometime after he met Joy Davidman in 1952, Lewis had considered himself a confirmed bachelor. Not quite fifty-four years old, Lewis had found no woman who interested him on an intellectual and later romantic level as did this American writer, a former atheist and Communist organizer. The triumphs and pains of their few years together and her death from cancer form the background of A Grief Observed, which Lewis first published under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk.

Joy, who had become a Christian at least partly through the influence of Lewis’ writings, met him on a trip to England. Upon her return to the United States, she found that her first husband, William Gresham, had been unfaithful to her, and a divorce soon followed. After she moved to England in 1954, Lewis’ admiration for her continued to grow. In A Grief Observed he writes of Joy, “Her mind was lithe and quick and muscular as a leopard. Passion, tenderness and pain were all equally unable to disarm it. It scented the first whiff of cant or slush.”

When the Home Office denied Joy’s request for permanent residence in Great Britain, Lewis ensured her right to remain there by marrying her in a civil ceremony in 1956. He told his brother that is was simply a formality and that he and Joy would not live together. When Joy was...

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A Grief Observed Bibliography (Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends, 1979.

Christopher, Joe R. C. S. Lewis, 1987.

Green, Roger Lancelyn, and Walter Hooper. C. S. Lewis: A Biography, 1974.

Hannay, Margaret Patterson. C. S. Lewis, 1981.

Kilby, Clyde S. The Christian World of C. S. Lewis, 1964.

Musacchio, George. “Fiction in A Grief Observed,” in Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review. VIII (1987), pp. 73-83.