C. S. Lewis: his life and importance

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland on November 29, 1898 to Albert and Flora Lewis. He had one older brother, Warren, who he nicknamed “Warnie” when he was young. As a toddler, Lewis hated the name Clive and decided he wanted to be called Jack. He was known to his friends as Jack for the rest of his life.

Jack and Warnie were both avid readers as children, and together they created an imaginary world called Boxen, complete with a detailed history and political situation. Their mother died when Jack was ten years old, which had a profound effect on the entire family. Their father sent them away to boarding school, which Jack hated.

It was during his high school years that young Lewis became an atheist. Although he had been raised in a Christian home, his mother’s death and his troubles at school convinced him that God either did not exist, or else was cruel. One of his favorite tutors was profoundly atheist, and this also influenced his philosophy and education.

At the outbreak of World War I, Lewis joined the British army and was sent home after an injury. He became friends with another young man during his service, who made Lewis promise to look after his mother if he was killed. Lewis promised, and when his young friend died, he moved in with his mother, Janie Moore. He looked after her until her death.

When he was sufficiently recovered from the war, Lewis attended Oxford University and graduated with a degree in literature and classical philosophy. In 1925, he was awarded a teaching position at Magdalen College. It was in teaching here that he met a group of like-minded professors and writers, including his good friend J. R. R. Tolkien, and they formed a writing group called the Inklings. Lewis had an intense conversion experience as a result of the gentle influence of these men, especially Tolkien, and he became a Christian again.

Lewis wrote several works on Christianity, the most famous of which are The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. He also wrote a science fiction trilogy which dealt with themes of sin and temptation from a Christian worldview. During the 1950’s, he published his seven most acclaimed works, the children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia. These books were a sort of allegorical reinterpretation of the Bible in a way that made sense to children.

During this time, Lewis accepted a teaching position at Cambridge and married American divorcee Joy Gresham, who had two children from her previous marriage. At first it was a marriage of convenience, so Joy could remain in England, but it blossomed into a deep and long-lasting romance. Four years later, when Joy died of cancer, Lewis mourned her and overcame his grief through his writing. He shared his thoughts on death and mourning in his book A Grief Observed.

In 1963, Lewis resigned from his position at Cambridge for health reasons. He passed away peacefully in his sleep on November 22, 1963.

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