Posted by: Billy Marsh | July 26, 2008

Lewis On Adults Wanting To Be Adults

I have a few posts with more substance in the works right now, but I don’t want to publish them hastily; however, I’ve read fairly diversely this summer and have a stock pile of quotes from books that have some very unique things to say. So in the meantime, though I’ll probably end up writing on this entire essay at some point, I just couldn’t wait to give you this sample from C. S. Lewis’ essay, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” from a collection of literary articles he wrote that have now been given the encompassing title, On Stories. I bought this book a while back and I have been just waiting for the opportune time to pull it off the shelf. It’s a wonderful read and for anyone who is a fan of Tolkien or Lewis, this is a book where Lewis will take you personally behind the scenes of their style of fiction writing to see how it all came about, at least in some respects.

What I love about the following quote is that it is so honest and transparent while at the same time it unmasks the false pretensions others have about fantasy literature and the sad desire for adults to be, well, so adultish. I think it is interesting that this quote isn’t coming from some Gen-Xer whose first job was working in a video game store at age 25 and who has never had to grow up per se. Rather, it comes from a man who was an Oxford professor, who had served valiantly in WWI, and lived the main part of his life during the first-half of the 20th century among those whom have been labeled “The Greatest Generation”. With this context in mind, Lewis’ words have much more credibility and force to them. After reading this article, I am now more unashamed of my love for a good story that contains fantastic elements whether it is Batman (a more modern fantasy type character that has been embraced by others than just children), Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings. The line that I really want you to read is the one I will leave in bold, however, the entire paragraph is great. This selection comes from the beginning of Lewis’ threefold apologetic towards those people who degrade “children’s stories” and those who read them because they are not for adults and are, in effect, childish. 

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up (34).



  1. I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly.

    Lewis is so incisive at times. Driving home today, I heard a sermon by Ravi Zacharias. He reminds me of Lewis.

  2. […] “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found … […]

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