Chapters 1-3
Chapters 1-3 E-mail

Surprised by Joy

Chapters 1-3


1.  According to the Preface, why did Lewis write this autobiography?

2.  Lewis states in the Preface:  "I notice that a man seldom mentions what he had supposed to be his most idiosyncratic sensations without receiving from at least one (often more) of those present the reply, ‘What! Have you felt that too?'" 

As you read, make note of those instances, if any, where you have that response to something Lewis describes.


Chapter 1

3.  Lewis spends time explaining his ancestry.  Do you think the capacity for happiness is tied to ethnicity, culture, and/or genetics?

4.  Identify some features of Lewis's young childhood that impacted who he became.

5.  Early in the chapter, Lewis talks about his first experience of beauty and the longing it engendered.  Sehnsucht he called it; another name for "joy."  Watch for this recurring theme.  Try to come up with your tentative definition of what Lewis means by "joy."

6.  Lewis's relationship with his father was strained.  What factors led to this?

Chapter 2

7.  In chapter 2, Lewis describes his first boarding school experience.  What distinction does he make between "oppression from above" vs. "oppression from [one's] fellows"? 

Between "friendship" and "acquaintance"?

8.  Lewis claims that Oldie's was where he became an effective believer.  What was his relationship to Christianity at this point?

9.  How did boarding school prepare him for a life of faith?

10.  Watch for opinions on his experience in the British educational system.  More than just memories of an unhappy schoolboy, these are the observations of a university educator and scholar.

Chapter 3

11.  Lewis describes how various adults interacted with him.  What did he appreciate?  What did he dislike?  How might these experiences affect his ability to write for children later in life?

12.  What did Lewis think of "social functions"?


Please see the handout from the website for additional notes.

On page 4, "the Merediths and Tolstoys" probably refers to British novelist George Meredith (1828-1909).  He wrote The Ordeal of Richard Feverel and The Egoist

William Wymark Jacobs (1863-1943):  English writer of short stories and novels.  Most of his work was considered humorous and he liked to write about life at sea. 

pis aller:  French for "last resort"; literally "worst going"

Rounders:  a game between two teams dating back to the Tudor era.  There is a team at bat and a team in the field.  The object is to hit a ball with a bat and round four bases.  Very similar to baseball or softball with differences in equipment used. 
ergastulum:  a Roman building used to house slaves.  It consisted of a deep pit, with roof, large enough to enable salves to work inside.  They were common on farms using slave labor until outlawed during the reign of Hadrian.

© 2012 by Allyson Wieland