The Screwtape Letters

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The Screwtape Letters (1942) is a novel by C.S. Lewis. Lewis dedicated the book to J.R.R. Tolkien, his friend and fellow novelist.[1]

Plot

The novel is set in a series of 31 letters from Screwtape, a senior demon, to Wormwood, a junior tempter who is inexperienced (and rather incompetent as the letters show); none of the letters are from Wormwood's perspective.[2]

In the letters, Screwtape gives Wormwood advice as how to tempt a human soul (called "the patient" throughout the letters) and keep him from following God's persuasion. The letters feature an upside-down view of the afterlife: Satan is referred to as "Our Father Below" (and the hierarchy of demons is called the "Lowerarchy") while God is called "The Enemy".

Wormwood's incompetence fails to bring suitable results: the patient becomes a Christian, has a revival, and (against Screwtape's advice) is allowed to die in a bomb explosion (the letters are set during World War II Britain, which was being frequently bombed by German air raids) and goes to Heaven. Ultimately Wormwood is punished for his failures, to Screwtape's delight.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast

In some versions of this book, a short story titled Screwtape Proposes a Toast (originally published in 1959 in the Saturday Evening Post) is included as an addendum.

The story features Screwtape, in an after-dinner speech, giving advice to recent graduates of the Tempters' Training College. The speech is Lewis' criticism of British public education. At the end, Screwtape proposes a toast to "Principal Slubglob and the College!"[1]

Meaning

Tempters, according to Lewis, have two motives: the first is fear of punishment, the second a hunger to consume or dominate other beings. On the other hand, the goal of the Creator is to woo us unto himself or to transform us through his love from "tools into servants and servants into sons."[3]

The book is a marvel of perception about human nature and Christian ethics.

Adaptations to other media

The Screwtape Letters has been adapted to a comic, a film, and a stage production.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis, C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., 1996.
  2. Although demons do not have relatives according to the Bible, the letters portray Screwtape as Wormwood's uncle (all but two of the letters close with "Your Affectionate Uncle").
  3. Patricia Klein for Amazon.com