The Screwtape Letters Book Summary - The Screwtape Letters Book explained in key points
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The Screwtape Letters summary

C.S. Lewis

Letters from a Senior to a Junior Devil

4.7 (56 ratings)
20 mins
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    The Screwtape Letters
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    Faith and Reason

    The preface of The Screwtape Letters, which is signed by C. S. Lewis himself, begins with a warning: that humans tend to fall into two main errors concerning devils. The first is disbelieving in their existence entirely. The second is believing in them so much that one becomes unhealthily obsessed. Naturally, the devils themselves are pleased about both errors. Materialists, disbelieving in devils, are unlikely to believe in God. And magicians, who become fascinated by devils, end up doing their bidding.

    Next, Lewis warns readers that devils are liars. As such, the correspondence which he’s about to present should be taken with a grain of salt. The overall message is clear: readers may be wary of or amused by devils, but there’s no reason to put them on a pedestal.

    With that, the letters begin. The first gives readers a brief sense of the characters. The author of the letters is Screwtape, a senior devil with an authoritative, occasionally biting tone. The recipient is his nephew Wormwood, a junior devil still naive and unskilled in the ways of temptation. Finally, there’s an Englishman called “the patient.” Wormwood’s task is to draw this “patient” into damnation, away from heaven, so he can become food for “Our Father Below” –⁠ also known as Satan.

    At the very beginning, the patient hasn’t yet converted to Christianity. But Wormwood is already making a mistake: believing that he can keep the patient away from God through logical reasoning alone. These days, Screwtape writes, people don’t think of doctrines as “true” or “false.” Instead, they apply adjectives like “outdated” or “contemporary,” “academic” or “practical” –⁠ you get the idea. What matters is that the patient feels righteous about his beliefs –⁠ that’s all he really cares about, anyway.

    Why not use argument? Well, because devils aren’t the only ones who can argue –⁠ God can too. And once a person’s capacity for reason wakes up, it’s difficult to control where it takes them from there.

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    What is The Screwtape Letters about?

    The Screwtape Letters (1942) is a satirical novel in the form of letters written from one demon to another. Senior demon and hellish administrator Screwtape shares advice and lessons with his nephew, Wormwood, who is tasked with tempting his “patient” away from God and toward Satan. As such, readers see the ordinary troubles and temptations of human life depicted from a devil’s point of view.

    Who should read The Screwtape Letters?

    • Satire lovers with an interest in Christian theology
    • Non-Christians with a self-deprecating streak
    • Narnia fans who want to sample another of Lewis’s works

    About the Author

    S. –⁠ that is, Clive Staples –⁠ Lewis was a British writer born at the turn of the twentieth century. He taught English literature at both Oxford and Cambridge, fought in the First World War, and had a well-known friendship with fellow writer J. R. R. Tolkien. His most famous books are those making up the fantasy series The Chronicles of Narniabut his writings on Christian theology, including Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, are also notable.

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