Enveloped in white and gold wrapping paper, it was laying at the bottom of the Christmas bag my best friend gave me. Ripping it open I didn’t expect to see C.S. Lewis but I picked up her copy the week before and asked if she was reading him. We had a rather short conversation on C.S. Lewis and I exclaimed that I had been wanting to read him (especially Mere Christianity) for ages. She proceeded to give me a short synopsis on The Screwtape Letters and from her description and reaction it seemed like a tempting read. And of course with my memory, I forgot all about that conversation and forgot to ask her if I could borrow it for the Christmas break.
Fast forward to Christmas day when I was ripping open my Christmas presents, I was reminded of our convincing conversation when my eyes met the cover of a fresh copy of The Screwtape Letters. Of course she got me this for Christmas, what a genius! With all interesting books that I’ve been wanting to read, I began reading right away.
Yes, I devoured the book as always.
It was everything that she had described. One particular thing I noticed was C.S. Lewis’s ability to strike up emotion by placing me (the reader) exactly in the ‘Patient’s’ shoes. Boy, this book made for a really good reality check.
The Screwtape Letters is essentially a book on temptation written in a satirical, epistolary style. It follows the letters of Uncle Screwtape, an expert demon tempter, who is writing to his inexperienced nephew, Wormwood, in regards to Wormwood’s patient. This ‘patient’ is under the ‘care‘ of Wormwood (emphasising care because at the start it seems like Screwtape and Wormwood want the best of this patient) however we come to realise that Wormwood is asking for advice in regards to how to tempt his patient.
Screwtape’s objective for his nephew is to plant tiny seeds of hate in the heart of the patient, in order to get him to their desired location, which is ultimately hell. However the patient becomes a test for Wormwood, as time after time he struggles to convince his patient of the short-lived and dangerous attractions of the dark side. Wormwood is then subject to the impatience and scrupulous demands of Screwtape.
What struck me the most was the crafty and cunning measures that Screwtape suggested and Wormwood performed on the patient. For example, the patient attends Holy Mass and Screwtape suggests that Wormwood should tempt and distract the patient by making him concentrate on minuscule factors like the woman singing out of tune, the double chin of the person standing in the opposite pew or the odd clothes that some of the church-goers wear to mass. By concentrating on these irrelevant matters, Wormwood cleverly distracts the patient from the good that is present before him.
But I mean… come on… isn’t that scary? And truthfully… haven’t we all done that before?
This chillingly relatable book makes you second-guess and re-evaluate the thoughts we have, as we are directly placed in the position of the patient. However, with that being said, we immediately think of the spiritual battle that takes place in the hearts of all people; the voice of God and the voice of evil reverberating through our minds. With this book, we are given hope but a valuable life lesson is also served.
“Pray as though everything depended on God.” – St Augustine
God bless and happy reading, Irene.