C.S Lewis’s “Friendship” – English 1A – Essay 1
Write an essay between 1,000 and 1,500 words (approximately 3-4 pages) summarizing and critiquing Lewis’ view of friendship – what parts do you agree with? What frustrates you? What philosophical, sociological, or textual elements combine to persuade you the most?
Successful essays will have a clear summary of Lewis’ argument, as well as focused sections that illuminate where you agree and disagree with what Lewis has to say, and why.
Final Score: 180/200
Final Comments: “Brie – great job!”
Draft Comments: “Gabriella – great job! Your writing is very strong. Work on the conclusion & look to incorporate more quotes by L – engage w/ his words!”
26 September 2013
C.S Lewis’s “Friendship”
In C.S. Lewis’s essay on Friendship he discusses the various aspects and qualities of Friendship, (primarily among males), the importance of Friendship in our society, the historical impact Friendships have made, and opines that during his era Friendships between men and women were mostly impossible.
Lewis immediately identifies Friendship as being the “least natural of loves” in that it is not biologically necessary where Eros (romantic love) and Affection (familial love) are required for the continuation of the species. He continues to state that Friendship, not only being biologically unnatural, is also often mistrusted as it separates pairs or small groups from the larger community; by identifying individuals as your Friends you are separating others out as being Not Your Friends. However this is not to be misidentified as a dislike of Friendship as Lewis strongly believes that Friendship is one of the best kinds of love. He draws an early corollary between the imagined images of Eros and Friendship; where partners of Eros can be seen face to face, absorbed in each other, partners of Friendship are seen as side by side absorbed in their commonalities.
Lewis also makes a point to refute widespread theories (at the time) that Friendship (between those of the same gender) is actually homosexual in nature. He finds this idea, and any points used to support it, ridiculous and even goes on to say that those who hold with this theory and cannot imagine Friendship as a legitimate love have not actually had a Friend. Lewis goes on to identify how different Friendships and love-affairs are; where Eros is strictly between two people and incites jealousy of others, Friendship is actually made better by adding a third or more and is, according to Lewis, the least jealous of the loves. Lewis states that the dynamic of Friendship is improved when more individuals are involved where (using an A,B, and C system) A brings out qualities in B that C does not, and so if A is not with B and C, the experience is different and lesser. Where “Lovers seek for privacy. Friends find this solitude about them, this barrier between them and the herd, whether they want it or not.” The first individual seeks for a second, and then the two for a third. However, according to Lewis, not all potential Friends are created equal.
Lewis ends his essay discussing the gender separation when it comes to Friendships, where men and women can meet in Eros and Affection but not in Friendship. He states that this is due to the disparity in their matrices of Friendship (mainly education, work, and interest) with the caveat that in a world where there is more common ground Friendships can become possible. He also states that where a Friendship between a man and a woman may begin to develop, it will quickly turn to Eros unless one or both are already in a state of Eros with another, or one party is ugly and attraction becomes impossible.
It is clear from Lewis’s essay that he values his Friendships greatly; he views them on a deeper level than most modern Friendships give meaning. Over the course of reading his essay and writing this paper it also made me examine my own Friendships on several new levels. I asked myself if my Friendships were actually Friendships; did we share that common deeper interest or were my Friends actually only companions or allies? I believe that though I now can no longer remember whatever the initial commonality was that brought me and my Friends together, that it was there in the beginning but has become unnecessary as our Friendship progresses.
I agree without reservation that compared to Eros and Affection, Friendship is the “least natural loves.” Speaking strictly biologically it has no place in the continuation of our species, and I again agree with Lewis that when speaking in terms of the success and happiness of the species Friendship becomes a lot more important. I was also intrigued by the idea of how historically Friendship and common interest were responsible for developing things like the basics of modern mathematics.
Another idea that grabbed me is how declaring that someone is your Friend also makes the generalization that others are not your Friends; the idea that becoming Friends with someone separates you from the herd and becomes a form of solitude. I thought of this idea in terms of what I see in the wild; when you encounter a group of people together there is this unspoken boundary and agreement to not encroach on their space, their togetherness. With an individual there is still a sense of needing to maintain distance, but it is less so, they are more approachable. Where with a group the message is “back off, I already have Friends,” while with an individual there is a glimmer of hope. However, more and more we fill that sense of availability with technology. Instead of riding the bus where there is an opportunity for connecting with other individuals, we spend the time on our phones as to appear to not be open and thus close ourselves off. I will say that though this technological wall we hide behind can prevent real world Friendships from forming, it does create a viable platform for more easily finding those “What, you too? I thought I was the only one.” kind of connections.
I initially disagreed with Lewis in regards to his opinion that Friendship is “the least jealous of loves.” I saw jealousy in interactions with my own Friends on a regular basis as we are a fairly large group. Sometimes a duo or triplet does not want to increase the size of their event, so those not included feel left out. However, as I thought on this topic I realized that Lewis was not speaking on the act of excluding, but on the act of inclusion. Where with Eros including a third would undoubtedly incite jealousy, in Friendships, true Friendship, inclusion does not.
I appreciated that with the topic of the opposite gendered Friendships he made the effort to state that though Friendships between men and women were due to a disparity in education among other things, that the reasoning was more about availability and equality in opportunities rather than pure intellect. Lewis stated that already in his field male/female Friendships existed, but that in a different world (or different time) this would be common. I feel that we are now at that point and it would be interesting to see how Lewis’s perspective may shift if he were around today. I believe that though there are many areas where equality is still to be reached, there is nothing holding us back from having equality in Friendship.
Although much of Lewis’s essay initially angered me, I slowly came to have an understanding and appreciation for his point of view and reasoning’s. The aspects and qualities of Friendship are very meaningful and something we clearly take for granted in this age of “social media.” From the most charming, to the most awkward, Friendship is that which we all desire and need for a fulfilling and satisfying life. Lewis struck a chord with me when he wrote “It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision is it then that Friendship is born.”