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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 715

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.

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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 later diagnosed as having terminal cancer, however, the two were married at her bedside in a Christian ceremony on March 21, 1957, and she was taken to Lewis’ home, the Kilns, expecting to die. By what her physicians considered a miracle, her cancerous bones began to knit again, and in early December of 1957 she was again able to walk. Three brief years of marital happiness followed. Lewis told a friend, “I never expected to have, in my sixties, the happiness that passed me by in my twenties.” In 1959 the cancer returned, and although she and Lewis were able to make a trip to Greece, which had been one of her lifelong dreams, they believed that it was too much to hope for a second miracle. None came, and she died on July 13, 1960.

A Grief Observed consists of short entries into four notebooks which the author says that he found, partially used, in his home. The published version runs sixty pages and retains this four-part outward structure. The entries themselves, bearing no date, run from one line to a half page, and a typical page has several entries. They describe the gamut of emotions and thoughts which flood the author’s mind when his grief is fresh and also as it matures. He gives an intimate portrait of the deceased and of their love, in which “no cranny of heart...

(The entire section contains 780 words.)

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