Lewis’ Teenage Social Conscience

Le19th century factory, francewis was no socialist–by the time he was entrenched into Oxford university life after the war, he called them “damn socialists”–but there is a moment in his letters as an 18 year old where we see the hint of social concern. Writing to his good friend, Arthur Greeves, he laments the conditions of the workers and how vastly different his lifestyle was from them. At this time, Lewis was well-off enough that they were concerned more about the availability of food during the war, than about the ability to pay for it. His letters are filled with luxury: buying beautiful books, reading, learning languages, taking long walks, skating in the afternoons. But in this little snippet we see a social reflection I haven’t seen yet in his letters.

“When you think of the way labourers in the factory live at home, – men & women slaving from half past five in the morning to six at night at hard, monotonous work in hideous rooms full of shrieking machinery year after year, with never a moment’s pleasure except when they are drunk (and you can’t blame them) it really does make you feel the whole thing is wrong. Aren’t you ashamed to think of us, blessed prigs, with our books and music and little grumbles about nothing, dawdling along (your office is absolute Paradise & idleness compared with their lives) while half or more than the people are slaves. As much slaves as ever there were in Rome, their only liberty being liberty to starve when the torture becomes unbearable.” (Feb 20, 1917 to Arthur Greeves)

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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2 Responses to Lewis’ Teenage Social Conscience

  1. Callum Beck says:

    Wow, that is quite a quote. Had never read it before.


  2. Yeah, me neither. I’m about 1/4 of the way through his 1st volume of letters (3 volumes).


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