The Screwtape Letters

Thoughts    The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis, New York THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1944, 160 pages


A series of letters from Screwtape, perhaps he is an executive of Hell, to his nephew Wormwood who has been assigned with preventing a British gentleman from converting to Christianity.

We do not get to read Wormwood’s side of the story but I’ll go ahead and spoil it for you by saying he fails. Each piece of correspondence brings up a philosophical idea rather than a religious one. Truly a wonderful thought-provoking look at spirituality and good versus evil.  Ageless in message. The humor is my favorite kind:  sly, intelligent and clever.

“Your man may be untroubled about the Future, not because he is concerned with the Present, but because he has persuaded himself that the Future is going to be agreeable. As long as that is the real course of his tranquillity, his tranquillity will do us good, because it is only piling up more disappointment, and therefore more impatience, for him when his false hopes are dashed.”  p.79

The sections that really captured my attention were the ones the attempt to ‘explain’ the human concept of TIME, CHANGE versus the Same Old Thing, and sense of ownership. I also enjoyed the confusion and frustration on what possibly this LOVE thing really is all about.

“All His talk about Love must be a disguise for something else – He must have some real motive for creating them and taking so much trouble about them. The reason one comes to talk as if He really had this impossible Love is our utter failure to find out that real motive.”  p.97

“The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.”   p.128

I really wish I had read this as a teenager.  Well done.

“The creatures are always accusing one another of wanting ‘to eat the cake and have it’; but thanks to our labours they are more often in the predicament of paying for the cake and not eating it.”  p.155

RATING:  Four slices of pie. 

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9 thoughts on “The Screwtape Letters

  1. Love, love, love this book. I’ve always thought of Screwtape as Satan; truly, a voice which tries to beguile and trick at every turn but ultimately fails. You quoted some of my favorites, but I also love the passage where he talks about women’s size/vanity. Wish I could remember it exactly to quote here, but I can’t…all I remember is that he says (and maybe you did put it with the cake bit) that you should eat what you want and not worry so much about appearances.

    Now I want to read it again.

  2. I read this when I was about 12. The concept totally appealed to me … but I’m positive that most of the philosophy went way over my head! I stumbled into this after reading the Narnia books. Very very different!!! : )

  3. The portraits from this book have always stayed with me; my husband and I always reference the portrait of the very particular eater when we have my mother as a houseguest, which made it especially funny that she read the copy of this book that we had put out so our kids would pick it up and read it over the vacation.

  4. Oh, I forgot to mention that there exists a recording of John Cleese reading this book out loud. A friend of mine owned it on cassette tape, and I wish it would be reissued in some more modern format!

  5. I read this in high school (not for high school, just when I was high school age), and I think a lot of it was wasted on me at that time. I keep meaning to do a reading project where I read everything CS Lewis wrote in the order he wrote it — maybe 2012 can be the year.

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