Hearts knit together: Models of friendship in the novels of Charles Williams

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Patrick A. McCarthy - Committee Chair


The novels of Charles Williams present an array of social relationships based on the Dantean ideal of Divine Love and the author's theological principles of co-inherence and substitution. This dissertation explores the proposition that Williams's models of these key human friendships and his exposition of the philosophical and theological bases for them constitute a coherent picture of personal relations in Williams's ideal City of God. Like any effective teacher, he provides through his novels both the cognitive rationale and the behavioral models for his teachings. These examples and certain facets of Williams's literary and social life suggest a pattern to be investigated.The first chapter of this study introduces Williams's unusual ideas of friendship and focuses on elements in his personal life that contributed to the development of his fictional models. His intellectual interest in the figure of Beatrice in Dante's work, his background in the principles of dialogue and rational discourse in Plato, his scholarly participation in the debates about the work of Milton, his close personal relationships with both male and female colleagues at Oxford University Press, his friendships with literary figures from W. B. Yeats to C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and his idealization of his relationship with his wife all influenced his theories. He adapted the metaphysical themes and fantastic form of G. K. Chesterton's novel The Man Who Was Thursday to create seven novels inhabited by characters connected by complex codes of behavior.Subsequent chapters of this paper examine four types of relationships, all of which could be encompassed by Williams's definition of friendship: the interactive teaching and learning relationship between mentors and their proteges, the give-and-take of iron sharpening iron between two peers, the special subset of peer relationships represented by lovers, and the rare life devoted to friendship with God. And, lest Williams's models seem impossibly utopian, he provides examples of the antitheses of these friendships---enmity or indifference to other human beings and perversions of ideal Love.The final chapter explores the influence of his ideas about friendship on the works of his contemporaries and his secondary effect on the philosophies of later writers.


Religion, General; Literature, English

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