Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

CS Lewis: Known as “Jack”

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 8, 2013


According to Wikipedia, “at the age of four, shortly after his dog Jacksie was killed by a car, he (CS Lewis) announced that his name was now Jacksie. At first, he would answer to no other name, but later accepted Jack, the name by which he was known to friends and family for the rest of his life.” This vignette intrigues me, as I continue to prepare for my upcoming Talkback. My contention is that CS Lewis and Freud are each representing different aspects of their own belief systems. In essence, they agree with each other, they maintain conflicting opinions, but, for the purposes of a writing career, for the purpose of establishing a place in history,  they articulate only one side of the argument about G-d, sexuality and the meaning of life. Given that point of view, I take from CS Lewis, insisting on being called the name of his suddenly deceased dog, is a way in which he lives out  his belief that death is not permanent, so long as someone keeps your memory alive. So much of the discussion about the meaning of life, stems from one’s view of death. If death is final, then fear might ensue. If death is one step on a longer journey, then perhaps one can relax into life. If CS Lewis could think about his dog every day, as he is called by his dog’s name every day, then Jacksie is still alive, yet in a different way then before he was hit by a car. As February represents a month of memories for me, of a particular person that I was close to, who is no longer with us (or me), I, too, am aware of how important it is to keep the discussion, and hence the person, long away from our living world, alive in a way which still has meaning for me. I imagine telling others to now call me by the deceased person’s name. I can feel how special this would make me feel. I can feel that I was not just living my life, but theirs as well. The name would represent a “containment” as Winnicott  would say. In this “containment” there is peace. CS Lewis, Jack, was on to something psychoanalytic; a fact he may take issue with. May he rest in peace.

4 Responses to “CS Lewis: Known as “Jack””

  1. Jon said

    Death of a loved one is a very sad thing. Each such experience is unique, and we react to each one in ways we might not have been able to predict.

    Being a fellow traveler with you on this look into Freud and Lewis, we must look at how each approaches death. Of course, we do not know what will happen to our loved one (or ourselves, for that matter) after death, so this sets the stage ripe for beliefs. As Michel de Montaigne noted over four and a half centuries ago, “Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known.” Thus, we have death to help be a window to our belief.

    • Yes, death does allow for projections, which consists of our wishes and our fears.I wish/fear that the projections cast on the Talkback host tomorrow night carries with it the most positive of feelings along with a sense of deep stimulation. We wil see.

  2. Shelly said

    While I sympathize with CJ Lewis’ loss of Jacksie and his hope of keeping his soul alive such that he insisted on being called by that name, I find it hard to relate to missing a pet that much that one would wish to embody an animal’s body. However, the passing of a beloved father, mother, sister, brother, child, grandmother or grandfather–this I can relate to and empathize with and therefore I can very well understand the desire to take on that name and live the life of that loved one. If I knew of someone who had lost someone very dear to them and wanted to mark the anniversary of the passage, if it would be in my power in any way, to give my friend peace, I would do it. Best of luck tonight (Sunday).

    • Shirah said

      Thanks, Shelly. I think we have to remember that CS Lewis was a little boy, and as such, the meaning of Jacksie, his dog seems to me to be the one thing that he held close to his heart without conflict or pain. When Jacksie had a sudden demise, I imagine, CS Lewis felt that he lost the one thing in his life that he could always count on. This meaning of the loss can create a yearning, or a searching. for maintaining that relationship, which he tried to do by assuming his name. The poetry of it all impresses me. It is as if CS Lewis said, “well, if I can’t have the only thing in my life that gave me deep comfort, then at least I can have his name.” I think we all make those kinds of bargains with ourselves, unconsciously speaking, all the time. It is often true then when someone close to us dies, we take on their clothing style, their speech intonations or their interests, as a way of “remembering” them. The assumption of parts of their identity is a way in which we reassure ourselves that their life was not for nothing, and hence ours is not either. The fact that it was a dog as opposed to a person is not relevant, as the dog, like other people in our lives, are places in which we project, or fantasize, about what this relationship means to us. It is the fantasy created around the dog which entered into CS Lewis’ mental life, making us all think about the fantasies we create around all of our relationships. Sure, relationships with other humans are more complicated, since we get feedback from them which gets woven into our fantasies, but that does not mean that a relationship with an animal can’t be very deep.

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