The Screwtape Letters

By C.S. Lewis

Synopsis: This classic book is a very unusual work a fiction, as it purports to be the found correspondence of a Senior Devil, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Devil. The letters, of which there are 31, are in the form of a mentorship correspondence. It is a one-sided letter campaign, as we only have letters from Screwtape, the mentor, that we can read. However, the context of each letter is always given to the reader. Screwtape is trying to counsel his nephew Wormwood in the best way to lead his assigned person (called a “patient”) carefully to hell. The reader therefore gains some insight into what sort of means the devils use to destroy mankind. I have categorized the main messages of each letter, and they are:
Letter I – Intellectualism
Letter II – Hypocrisy of churchgoers as a stumbling block
Letter III – Distractions and relationship problems
Letter IV – Prayer
Letter V – Despair
Letter VI – Fear and Uncertainty, and misdirected passion
Letter VII – Existence of the devil and extremism in any worldly cause
Letter VIII – Ebb and flow of spirituality
Letter IX – Susceptibilities in the low periods of spirituality
Letter X – Social influences
Letter XI – Risks and aspects of laughter
Letter XII – Procrastination of repentance
Letter XIII – Enjoyment of simple pleasures
Letter XIV – Humility
Letter XV – Concern for past, present, and future
Letter XVI – Falsehood and division within churches
Letter XVII – Gluttony
Letter XVIII – Sex and marriage
Letter XIX – The Love of God and romantic love
Letter XX – Physical attraction
Letter XXI – Use of time and a sense of ownership
Letter XXII – A proper love interest and calm versus noise
Letter XXIII – Higher criticism and political views
Letter XXIV – Spiritual pride and fitting in
Letter XXV – Mere Christianity and fashionable views
Letter XXVI – Discontentment in a marriage
Letter XXVII – Prayer and free will
Letter XXVIII – Routine and enduring life
Letter XXIX – Cowardice and courage
Letter XXX – Disappointed expectations and fatigue, reality vs. sentiment
Letter XXXI – Regaining the presence of God

Strong Points: This book is a wonderfully original idea. The entire work takes on the point of view of the Devil’s angels. And C.S. Lewis as a Christian of profound insight, and so his analysis of how the tempters try to destroy mankind is one that is worthy of study. Reading the book makes one wonder how devils are working on yourself. The Screwtape Letters has been quoted several times by Church leaders in order to teach a moral point, as well. This book is a classic in literature, is brief, and is well worth the read.

Weak Points: I found that sometimes the monologue was rather wordy, which made clarity suffer somewhat. There were moments where you weren’t quite sure what Screwtape meant. This also caused the read to drag somewhat.

Interesting: 4/5

Must Read: 4.5/5

Overall: 3.7/5

Pages: 160

Selected Quotes: “Don’t waste time in trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous – that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.” (p. 11-12).

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” (p. 25).

“Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.” (p. 37).

“Talk to him about ‘moderation in all things’. If you can once get him to the point of thinking that ‘religion is all very well up to a point’, you can feel quite happy about his soul. A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing.” (p. 51).

“If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy [God] that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it,” (p. 60).

“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,” (p. 64-65).

“…Despair is a greater sin than any of the sins which provoke it.” (p. 149).


Make a free website with Yola