The Screwtape Letters 

by C. S. Lewis

 

The Screwtape Letters is an epistolary novel, each chapter a short letter addressed to Wormwood from his uncle Screwtape. The two are in correspondence because of Wormwood's work on "the patient," the person he is trying to seduce to do evil. Wormwood hopes to keep the patient away from "the Enemy" (God), putting his soul firmly in the hands of the Devil, thereby pleasing his uncle and mentor Screwtape. This series of short letters is the affectionate uncle's sage advice in how a demon goes about doing this work effectively.


The short novel gives an interesting look into how the work of first keeping someone from choosing to become a Christian, and later seducing a servant of the Lord might go about, from the perspective of the evil one(s). Wormwood advises his nephew about all manner of temptations, which might be the most effective and which are simply a waste of time. For instance, the first letter begins with Wormwood's insightful perspective, pointing out that simple arguments of fact will not be likely to keep the patient from choosing to follow and obey God. Throughout, he suggests more subtle means for tempting the patient, much of which it looks pretty promising.


This fictional study in temptation is a favorite of many Christians, and is often used for classes and discussion groups. It is a useful exploration of the topic, particularly for its focus on temptation not as single events, but as an ongoing process. On top of that, it is an entertaining read, full of both wit and wisdom.

 

Reviewed by Shelly Bryant © 2010