The Screwtape Letters

satirical, epistolary Christian apologetic novel by C. S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters is a book written by author and Christian scholar C. S. Lewis. It appeared in installments in The Guardian newspaper and was later published as a book in 1942. It is a series of letters written by a devil named Screwtape to his apprentice and nephew Wormwood. The letters are filled with advice for the young demon on how to tempt men. Screwtape tells Wormwood how to undo the work of God and work against Him.

The Screwtape Letters
Recent edition cover
AuthorC. S. Lewis
GenreChristian Satire
PublisherGeoffrey Bles
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages175 pp

The Screwtape Letters were greatly popular. It was published in 1941, and after that, it has sold very well around the world. Because it is funny and easy to read and understand, many people read it easily and have been influenced by it.

Main Characters change

The two main characters that are inside the letters are Wormwood, a demon that has the job of leading his "patient" away from Christianity (or at least making him a useless Christian). Screwtape is Wormwood's uncle and a "high" demon.

Screwtape change

Screwtape, a devil and the uncle of Wormwood, helps Satan and everything he stands for. He calls the devil our Father. He also fights against everything God stands for, calling God The Enemy. Wrong to him is right and right to him is wrong. Through these backhanded references, we see temptation from a different light. Because Screwtape sees the world in reverse, we ought always to ask ourselves the questions which Wormwood must never let the patient ask, or to carefully consider the things which the patient must never think.

Lewis writes, in the Preface, that he did not perceive Hell and the "Lowerarchy" as an exact antithesis to God, who is Good for His own sake, but rather to a "thoroughly nasty business concern" in which each individual is out for his own ends. We see an example of this in letter 23, when Screwtape reveals his true nature to Wormwood.

Ironically, even though many of the things he says are Biblically wrong, some of the things he says are, according to the Bible, true. He talks about the glory of heaven when the patient is taken up there, though he does not understand why God gives them to men. He admits to Wormwood that he does not know about his Enemy well enough. Screwtape cannot understand love and says in Letter 18 that he believes that God must have another, hidden reason to save men, since everybody is selfish and cannot love.

Screwtape is always afraid that God will step in and stop Wormwood's temptations. Screwtape says that when the patient prays to God for help, God always comes, so Screwtape is fearful.

At first, Screwtape thinks the patient's soul will go to hell. However, he is angry when Wormwood makes more and more mistakes. He feels that God is "winning the battle".

Quotes from the book change

Several noteworthy phrases arise in the course of the patient's temptation:

"Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."

"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."

"Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

Setting change

The book is set during the early years of World War II. This was the time when it was actually written. Lewis was living in England during the war. He went through many of the things that the patient goes through in The Screwtape Letters. Many of his first readers did, too. The book, however, focuses more on the spiritual battle between demons and their patient.