The Screwtape Letters

by: C.S. Lewis

Letters 22-24

Summary Letters 22-24

Summary: Letter 22

Wormwood reports Screwtape to the Secret Police for comments in one of his letters. Screwtape escapes punishment, but he threatens that Wormwood will pay for this and his other mistakes. Meanwhile, the Patient has fallen in love with a Christian woman. It is terrible news. She seems delicate, but at the same time has a keen wit. She is virginal, but also sexually impassioned. Wormwood hates her. The Enemy is a Hedonist, says Screwtape, a pleasure-seeker. . verything natural is pleasurable to humans. Devils must twist these natural pleasures to make them wrong. As for the Woman the Patient has fallen in love with, her whole family is Christian and the entire household is tainted by disinterested love. Their house is full of music and silence. Screwtape longs to turn this into noise. Then, a note reads, the letter breaks off and begins again in different handwriting. During composition, Screwtape transforms into a giant centipede. This isn’t punishment, Screwtape dictates to his secretary, Toadpipe, but a manifestation of an inner Life Force.

Summary: Letter 23

The Patient is getting to know good and intelligent Christians through the Woman and her family. Since he cannot remove spirituality from the Patient’s life, Wormwood must corrupt it. spoiled saint is more fun to torture in Hell. Because the Patient’s new acquaintances have political interests, Wormwood should try to exploit the line between theology and politics. He should confuse the Patient with an idea of a istorical Jesus that will distract the Patient from who He really is and what He did. The earliest Christians were converted by just one historical fact, says Screwtape, the Resurrection, and by just one piece of theological doctrine, Redemption. In general, Hell does not want man’s Christianity to affect man’s politics. If humankind managed to create a just society, for example, it would be disastrous. Rather, Hell wants men to use Christianity as a means to other ends. Devils should make men, for example, use their faith as a means of political advancement.

Summary: Letter 24

Screwtape has heard from the Woman’s devil, Slumtrimpet. The Woman’s flaw is that she has only ever known Christianity and virtuous beliefs. She may mistake for true faith what is only habit. Wormwood should make the Patient imitate the Woman’s un-self-conscious faith until it becomes, in him, spiritual pride. The Woman’s family is made up of better and more intelligent people than the Patient has previously encountered in life. Wormwood should make the Patient think he has finally met his sort of people, that he is similar to the Woman’s family, when, in reality, he is far below them. The Patient should believe this is the kind of company he deserves, that it is his right, instead of realizing that the Woman’s family has accepted him out of charity and that he should be grateful. Then, Screwtape tells Wormwood not to write so much about the War and the death count in London. The War has almost nothing to do with his work on the Patient.

Analysis

When Wormwood reports Screwtape, the subplot escalates. Readers are challenged to ask themselves increasingly difficult questions, even to choose sides. Who, for example, is the protagonistof The Screwtape Letters? Is it the Patient, who, though presented as model for the reader’s own position, is a general character somewhat lacking in specific traits and full complexity? Is it the bumbling tempter Wormwood, whose reports the reader only encounters second-hand? Or, is it the malicious, but somehow endearing, Screwtape, the unwitting, and perhaps unwilling, teacher of human virtue? It is possible to make a compelling argument that any of the three is the book’s protagonist. The Romantic writer and artist, William Blake, wrote of John Milton (the author of the English epic poem, Paradise Lost) that his depictions of Satan and Hell were more compelling than his descriptions of God and Heaven. The same can be said of Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. Though they aspire to teach practical lessons on human virtue, the most compelling figure in them is the evil advisor, Screwtape. a devil who accidentally acknowledges, then renounces his acknowledgement of, God’s love

Screwtape’s metamorphosis into a giant centipedeis another reminder that he is an evil creature. Despite the mundane nature of Screwtape’s office position and his educational advice to his nephew, supernatural might interrupt Screwtape’s correspondence at any time. Screwtape argues that this transformation is a normal occurrence and a positive sign of his inner “Life Force,” but it seems that it results from his rising anger at Wormwood, who has betrayed him, and at the mere thought of the Patient’s potential happiness. The solitary phase of the Patient’s Christianity has come to a close. This enrages Screwtape. Now that the Patient has fallen in love with the Woman, he has good Christian friends, friends who help him to grow closer to God. Screwtape wants to turn all Christianity into something monstrous and contradictory, into a practice that is more political than religious, into a fake intellectual pastime rather than a means for spiritual progression. Lewis uses Screwtape’s comments in this section to launch a subtle critique of politicians who hypocritically use their Christianity to win votes

Screwtape hates the Woman even more than the Patient. Perhaps this is because the Woman is Screwtape’s opposite, a force of pure good in the Patient’s life undoes Screwtape’s Hellish advice. The Woman’s one flaw, Screwtape learns, is that her life has been too good. It has been easy for her to hold Christian beliefs because she has only ever known Christianity and positive things. In other words, the Woman has been privileged. Screwtape advises tat this privilege, a positive thing in itself, once it enters the Patient’s life, can be used to turn the Patient back to the sin of pride. As Screwtape recounts the Patient’s failings, readers are meant to identify, to see themselves as flawed creatures, and to take Screwtape’s criticisms of the Patient as a reminder to behave with humility and to respond to the positive actions of others with gratitude. Meanwhile, World War II has become, as Screwtape earlier suggested it might, a force leading the Patient deeper into Christianity and closer to salvation.