Children's Literature Author Study Term Paper

Pages: 5 (2120 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

Children's Literature: Author Study

Most children are well acquainted today with the series the Narnia Chronicles, written by CS Lewis. Born on November 29, 1898, in Belfast Ireland, Clive Staples Lewis is a world renowned writer whose fame goes well beyond the aforementioned series. For his contemporaries, especially for the American and British public, as well as for his students, professor CS Lewis was a famous face and voice with a brilliant mind who always kept in touch with his audiences, readers and pupils and was most and foremost interested in sharing his knowledge as well as in enhancing his own knowledge through direct contact with his fellow human beings.

A brilliant student, First in Literae Humaniore and English Language and Literature, graduate of Oxford University, CS Lewis decided very early in his life that did not like either of his first names and thus became to all his friends, acquaintances and relatives, Jack. After having dealt with atheism in his early youth years, CS Lewis returned to Christianity in his early thirties. His direct participation in WWI as a soldier in the first lines only helped him enrich his knowledge about the human nature, but did not contribute to deepening his initial atheistic convictions.

Considering his literary evolution, CS Lewis' series "The Chronicles of Narnia" surprised his usual readers and audiences. Truthful to his habit of keeping a close contact to all those who read his works or listened to his lectures, he supported his decision to turn to children's literature in his fifties explaining that children and adult readers deserved the same degree of attention from a writer of fiction because both age categories are able and need to relate to an invented story, even if in different ways.

CS Lewis has used the numerous opportunities he encountered in his dialogues with fellow writers and most importantly, in his answers to his young reader's letters, to detail and make his opinions regarding his philosophy about this particular kind of literature clear. Critics and analysts of his work have no difficulties finding out exactly how children's literature fits into his literary bodywork. Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead argue that throughout his work, the British writer staid true to his beliefs and his readers, regardless of their ages: "The child as reader is neither to be patronized nor idolized: we talk to him as man to man…" (CS Lewis, quoted by Dorsett and Mead, p. 4).

CS Lewis further details his theory regarding the best way to expose such young impressionable readers to something that is not entirely separated from actions and characters that could cause them distress: "We must of course try to do [children] no harm: we may under the Omnipotence, sometimes dare to hope that we may do them good. But only such good as involves treating them with respect" (idem).

Although objective, such reflections may sound too scientifically impartial and thus too cold in relationship with the very young, generally dealt with in a more emotional manner. The fact that CS Lewis never had children of his own and only started a family in the later years of his life could have contributed to his objective and yet just manner of dealing with his very young audiences. On the other hand, his incessant interest in his fellow humans in general, offered him the opportunity to remain impartial in his relationship with all his readers or listeners, regardless of their age. His religious beliefs, lacking any trace of hypocrisy, only supported him in his generous efforts to offer everyone something of interest from his creative work. His literary genius manifested itself plainly in the children series "The Chronicles of Narnia."

According to the author himself, this series is to be improperly placed under the category of "children's literature" since there is no absolute authority that could declare a book suitable for a particular ager. It is only the reader who is to decide what is suitable for him or her and not a note on the cover of a book. One of the reasons the series is however mostly popular among children is because it best suits their own inclination to escape in the world of daydreaming and offers them places they are more likely to escape in than the adults whose busy lives keep them prisoners in the ordinary world. Through his seven

The close contact with refugee children Lewis had at his property at Kilns, as a result of the outbreak of WWII, may have had an essential contribution to his deep knowledge of the children's minds. Walter Hooper, author of the book CS Lewis: A Complete Guide to His Life & Works, points out that the events related to this episode were an inspiration to Lewis. It not only opened him a window toward the soul of a child, but also inspired him to use his creativity to address this category of readers as well (Hooper, C.S. Lewis: A Complete Guide to His life & Works, p. 402). The fact that the seven novels that comprise the series of the Chronicles of Narnia have the same huge success today as they had since their publication is a sure sign that CS Lewis knew his readers well and although not a child himself anymore, he knew how to relate to a child's emotional needs.

Like his science fiction novels, the ones that comprise the children's literature series are not strange from Christian symbolism. However, in his spirit of treating his readers with respect, the writer did not attempt to include anywhere in these novels attempts to manipulate and lead children away from the mere pleasure of reading. He did not assume the voice of a preacher, but merely presented children with a stage where they could see and listen to both positive and negative characters, find out about failure, cowardice, hope, courage and solidarity as well as other features of the adult world they are usually presented with at a much later stage in their lives and usually in painful ways.

One of the most impressive qualities of CS Lewis' children's literature comes from the fact that although he introduced elements that have more to do with the reality of the adult world, he did not cross the border between fairy tales and horror stories. The way the author went back and forth to complete the series is a proof that he was careful to present his readers with a credible story that did not lack cohesion and allowed them to make their own judgments. CS Lewis' young readers are obviously not expected to just swallow a series of stories, they are rather expected to distinguish between fiction and reality and take from fiction only the things they find most suitable to their own character and the real world they are living in.

Thus, in spite of starting to work on the novel the Magician's Nephew after he completely wrote another five novels destined to be included in the Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis completed a sixth novel, the Last Battle, before he finished the Magician's Nephew which he intended to make the first one of the series. In the spirit of the classical fairy tales, the children main characters and the fantastic characters and land of Narnia are destined to present young readers with the fight between good and evil which classically ends up with the victory of the good. This is the simple way to describe the adventures of the Pevensie children, Susan, Lucy, Peter and Edmund, their children relatives or schoolmates.

The seven novels of the series did not just awake the interest of the young readers, but also that of adults who saw beyond the mere stories whole new meanings and messages related to the problematic and issues characteristic to the world they were living in. Two world wars and dramatic changes and shifts between classes and other categories came to be invariably reflected in the seven novels. World dominance, dictators, weapons of mass destruction, evil minds, gender and race related issues, social inequalities, all these were to some degree reflected in the characters and events described in the seven novels.

Therefore, there were also the adult readers that found the books suitable for their age. While some of them became fans of the Chronicles, others strongly manifested against what they found as racial or gender prejudices the author expressed through this series dedicated to children's literature. Digory and Poly, the two children that, led by their curiosity, explore the puzzling attic of what they think is the attic of the neighboring empty house in the Magicians Nephew, fall into Digory's uncle Andrew's trap. Apparently, uncle Andrew plays the role of the tempter while the feminine part, Polly, is the one that cannot resist temptation and falls into the trap. The story goes back and forth between remarks that remind the reader of the division between the children's and adults' world as well as reality and imaginary. The adult… [END OF PREVIEW]

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