The Long Path to Christianity in Surprised by Joy Essays

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The Long Path to Christianity in Surprised by Joy

Surprised by Joy is essentially an account of those factors that brought Lewis to a mature, adult Christian faith. Lewis begins his work with an overview of the Lewis household and his early schooling. “The reality Lewis found on the pages of his parents' extensive library seems as tangible and meaningful to him as anything that occurred in the "outside" world” (Hannay 41). Lewis depicts himself and brother, William, as absolute confidants who share their deepest longings and secrets--all in the security of their parents' home. The tranquility and sanctity of the Lewis home is shattered by the death of his mother; the rest of his saga becomes the melancholy search for the
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Later Lewis embraces what he referred to as "northernness," or the Norse mythology that represented for him the embodiment of otherness and an escape from the mundane realities of boarding school. Before his eventual return to orthodox Christianity, however, Lewis would experiment with adolescent atheism, various Eastern beliefs, and the "Absolute" of Aristotelian ethics on his way to the trinitarian God proclaimed by Christianity.

In describing this progression, Lewis paints fascinating pictures of turn-of-the-century Britain and its intellectual climate--especially the British school system and the trials and tribulations of a non-athletic young boy whose aesthetic sensibilities seem out of place and out of step with his peers. From here the book's remaining chapters chronicle the steady ascension of Lewis's mind and heart--both his reason and imagination--toward the re-acceptance of the faith he had once shared with his brother and parents, denounced as a young poet and philosopher, and ultimately recovered as an erudite Oxford don. Most important here are two individuals and two authors whom Lewis cites as critical influences animating these gradual changes.

The first of these persons is the "Great Knock," William Kirkpatrick, Lewis's last real tutor before entering Oxford. "Kirk," as Lewis called him, taught Lgive-and-take that seeks truth through the relentless probing of an opponent's

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