The Screwtape Letters

by: C.S. Lewis

Letters 13-15

Summary: Letter 13

Screwtape is dismayed to hear that the Patient has renewed his faith. He describes an “asphyxiating cloud” around the Patienhis is the Enemy’s grace, which protects the Patient from temptation in certain moments of spiritual awakening. Screwtape goes on to describe Wormwoods mistakes. He let the Patient read a book and take a walk to an old mill. These pleasures reawakened the Patient’s sense of reality, showing him that he had been valuing the wrong things. Screwtape reminds Wormwood that the Enemy seeks to make people more distinct, more like themselves. It is their job as devils to make people drift away from their own nature. Screwtape tempts his own patients away from any strong interest that is not a sin, even cricket or stamp collecting. The best way to deal with the Patient’s renewed faith is to prevent him from converting his feeling of repentance into action. So long as the Patient doesn’t act on his feelings, he remains in a fallen state.

Summary: Letter 14

The Patient is becoming humble. Screwtape counsels Wormwood to the Patient how humble he has become. This should fill the Patient with pride. If not, Wormwood should make the Patient think the desired end of humility is low self-esteem rather than a positive self-forgetfulness that allows him to better serve the Enemy. The Enemy, Screwtape writes, wants people to be completely without bias, to rejoice at their own achievements to the same degree they would rejoice at the achievements of anothehis is because the Enemy really loves humans and wants to fill them with charity and gratitude. The enemy would rather a person think himself a great poet or architect and forget about it than to use his energy trying to convince himself he is a bad one. The Enemy will make the Patient conscience that he did not create himself. It is Wormwood’s job to make him forget.

Summary: Letter 15

Screwtape describes a lull in the warhe question whether to keep the Patient tortured by fear or to make him naively confident that the war is coming to a close. The Enemy wants people to attend to eternity and tthe present. All sins look toward the future, Screwtape says. The Enemy wants men to think of the future too, but just enough to act rightly in the present. Wormwood should make the future the Patient’s chief concern. The Patient can live in anxiety or hope about the war, so long as he isn’t concerned with the everyday and ordinary. If the Patient is tranquil and happy because he has convinced himself the future will be good, Wormwood can take advantage of his inevitable shock when something goes wrong. If, however, the Patient prays for the grace with which to meet the future while concerning himself with his present work, then Wormwood’s task is much harder.

Analysis

Wormwood’s success is shortlived, and the Patient experiences a renewal of his faith amounting almost to a second conversion. The circumstances behind the Patient’s reawakening are kept intentionally trivial and general. The Patient reads simply “a book” and walks to an “old mill.” Religious awakening, Lewis argues, is not a complex phenomenon. The chaos, or seeming chaos of modern industrial society, he implies, is a Hellish construction that keeps people from experiencing true pleasure, andfrom being brought closer to God. Lewis uses Screwtape to describe and anticipate the self-alienation that is considered, increasingly, a consequence of modern post-industrial life. By identifying this alienation as one of Hell’s strategies, The Screwtape Letters suggests that modernization is, if not evil in itself, a serious impediment to religious salvation.

In the fourteenth letter, Screwtape’s encourages Wormwood to bring the Patient into . Pride and humility are incompatible. If one is proud, one is not humble. What’s more, if one feels pride because one is humble, there was no reason for one to feel pride in the first place. But it is odd that, in this letter, Screwtape, a devil, would acknowledge God’s love for humans. For Hell, God is “the Enemy,” a deceiver incapable of love. Screwtape is subject to the same hypocrisythat he instructs Wormwood to draw out of the Patient. Wormwood, though he may prove incompetent at tempting the Patient, notices Screwtapes contradictions, and they become a key element of the plot later on.

Once again, the details of World War II are not important to Screwtape. There is no need, from his perspective, to discuss or even identify what caused the lull in the war. In fact, the war is merely an excuse for some general musings about the nature of time, eternity, and mankind’s place in it. Lewis uses Screwtape, an eternal being, as a way to imagine what a human life might look like from an eternal perspective. Both Hell and Heaven exist outside time. Faith, Lewis constantly reminds the reader, is an everyday practice that concerns itself with everyday things. This is because, he argues, the present moment is where timewhere human beings exist, removed from both Hell and Heaven“touches eternity.” Human beings can only bring themselves closer to Heaven, then, based on their faith and actions in the present moment. If Wormwood can make the Patient forget the present, make the Patient obsess with the future of the war, then the Patient won’t be using his time wisely and won’t bring himself any closer to God.