Book Thoughts: The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters was a Christian novel by C. S. Lewis. This is one of Matthew Kelly’s “ten books that will change your life”. It was very much a satire. Instead of being written from the side of God or holiness, explaining how a man falls but can improve himself to eventually get to heaven, it was written from the perspective of the devil. The story involved two demons in particular, Wormwood and Screwtape. Wormwood was a Temptor. These were the new recruits in the demon ranks. They had just graduated from the demon school that taught them how to tempt people. Each Temptor was assigned a person to tempt their whole life to hopefully bring that person down to Hell.

Presumably, Wormwood was writing to Screwtape about his progress in bringing his “patient” (the man he was assigned to tempt) into more and more sin. Wormwood also presumably asked for advice on how best to tempt the man. Screwtape in his pride seemed all too happy to oblige. Wormwood’s letters were not present in the book. Only Screwtape’s responses to his letters. This was a very interesting way to write the book. I’ve never read any other book like this. I was constantly stopping my reading to think about what Wormwood must have written to get a particular response from Screwtape.

While this book was written from the point of view of evil, its purpose was really to help people in their daily struggles of temptation while also having a laugh at it. The text would have been too dark and dreary without the added element of humor. C. S. Lewis, through the character of Screwtape, outlined several common temptations that people fall to as well as many defenses against them. Screwtape described how best to tempt the man, but he also many times told Wormwood what not to do. These things not to do could be taken as advice of what good people should do in real life to fight temptation.

The writing while mostly using simple words, was very intellectual. Some of the stuff I really had to wrap my brain around to understand. Some things I only briefly or barely understood in my one reading of them. While the book was a fast read (only a day). I plan to go back to it and write down all the various techniques both for and against temptation. These could be good pieces of advice if listed out plainly, or maybe not. I don’t know, but that’s why I want to write them down. I think there probably are some good pieces of advice, but using prayer against temptation is probably still best in most cases.

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