The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis, published in 1942, was a very enjoyable read that I’ve thought a lot about since I finished it at the end of February.
A masterpiece of satire, this classic has entertained and enlightened readers the world over with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life from the vantage point of Screwtape, a senior tempter in the service of “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C. S. Lewis gives us the correspondence of the worldly-wise old devil to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man. The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging and humorous account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.
As the title suggests, the story is told through a series of letters written from Screwtape, a senior demon in the underworld, to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter. We only get to read the letters Screwtape sends to Wormwood and not his nephew’s replies but in this case I thought monologic was a great choice because the extremes in Screwtape’s mood in his responses to Wormwood’s letters can be quite funny which I think might have been lost if you actually had to read Wormwood in all his inefficiency and lack of experience. Wormwood has been sent to tempt a man known only as ‘the patient’ to the dark side. And really the book is a very clever way of showing all the ways that we can fail in walking a path that leads to Heaven.
It is essentially about being a christian and all the small ways we may find ourselves tempted from the right path. It is not, however, full of dogma or anything like that. It is simple and discreet in its message and I found it made some very insightful points. Lewis very cleverly chose to write this book from the perspective of the other side which I found refreshing although I have read that he abhorred writing this work which was originally published as a series of columns in a weekly Anglican periodical.
What really came across to me as an important point that Lewis regularly conveyed is that the demons can never quite win because they simply cannot understand God’s unconditional love for these humans and therefore are constantly trying to figure out what he is up to or stands to gain. After a few weeks of stewing that’s what I’m taking away from this book – that unconditional love is the greatest good.
There was a lot of humour in this book, at least for me. I laughed out loud a number of times because really Screwtape is quite a character. It goes without saying that Lewis’ writing is impeccable and, if you are interested in how English has and continues to evolve as I am, then it is also nice to see the little differences in style and diction. Overall I really enjoyed it. I think if the blurb speaks to you give it a go. It’s really quite short and you’ll know a few pages in if it’s for you.
If you’ve read this book what did you think? I’d love to hear some opinions.