(CMCSL-6): Lewis Didn’t Experience Suffering Until His Wife Died

This is part of an occasional series exploring questionable claims about the life or writings of C.S. Lewis.  For a list of the topics either already explored or planned to be examined you can visit the introduction to this series

Movies that dramatize the life of famous people are frequently also famous for presenting them either more perfectly than they were or else characterizing a fault the person didn’t have. If your only exposure to Lewis was the 1993 Hollywood version of Shadowlands, then you likely think (among other false notions) that he never experienced any real pain or suffering in his life until his wife died in 1960. That is simply not the case. Likewise, there are those who question how familiar Lewis was with these issues when he wrote The Problem of Pain in 1940.

Anthony Hopkins is a fine actor, but his portrayal of C.S. Lewis is viewed as inferior to Joss Ackland’s, who had the part for the BBC in their 1985 movie version. But, of course, neither does justice in presenting the well-rounded person that C.S. Lewis really was. Yet, everyone knows that a movie isn’t a documentary and even documentaries don’t always share all that some would want about the life they present.

Before sharing tangible evidence about how familiar Lewis was with suffering and even the death of loved ones, let’s briefly consider why movies are hardly ever a reliable source for truly understanding a person, or even a book, upon which a film is based. Spoiler alert if you haven’t read the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The movie from 1939 (with a slight title change, The Wizard of Oz) is very much an adaptation! While the promotional poster states it is “From the Book by L. Frank Baum,” the screenplay is a lot different in many ways. According to sources online, there are over three dozen major differences between the novel and the MGM movie. Fast forward to recent times and I remember watching a movie about Steve Jobs and was shocked to learn that they changed some of the real-life events (for dramatic effect, of course)! I note these examples to underscore what should be obvious. A movie version of something is just that, an imperfect adaptation. However, that doesn’t mean those who create movies shouldn’t try to make better films.

What follows is a list of events that disprove the false conception that Lewis was unfamiliar with pain and suffering before his wife died, along with not knowing much about it when he wrote The Problem of Pain in 1940:

  • Lewis’ mother (Flora) died of cancer before he was 10 years old
  • Four months before his mother’s death, Lewis lost his grandfather
  • Less than two weeks after his mother’s death, his uncle died
  • Lewis was the subject of a lot of bullying at school before the age of 16
  • His close friend, Paddy Moore, was killed during WWI
  • Lewis, who also served in WWI, saw many others killed and he was wounded during his service
  • His father died in 1929.
  • Additionally, after 1940; his close friend Charles Williams died in 1945 and Mrs. Moore (whom he lived with for almost 30 years) died in 1951.


The next article to be posted is:

C.S. Lewis was a Universalist


Updated 8/12/2017


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