I have signed up for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2020, hosted by Karen from Books and Chocolate blog.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is my third book for this challenge.
What Amazon says
In this humorous and perceptive exchange between two devils, C. S. Lewis delves into moral questions about good vs. evil, temptation, repentance, and grace. Through this wonderful tale, the reader emerges with a better understanding of what it means to live a faithful life.
Quotes from the book:
“She’s the sort of woman who lives for others – you can tell the others by their hunted expression.”
“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,…”
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”
This is an extraordinary book by a clever writer and takes a deep look at the psychology of man and his relationship with God, referred to as the Enemy and his fellows, through a series of letters from a master devil, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood. Screwtape has spent years as a tempter of humans and is mentoring the young and immature Wormwood, who has recently finished at the tempter college in Hell, on the art of removing a human man, referred to as the patient, from the path of virtue and Heaven, and capturing his soul for their Master.
The letters start with the patient converting to Christianity and Screwtape giving Wormwood a good telling off for allowing this to happen. The letters delve into many of the human vices such as gluttony, sexuality, superiority and others and investigates how these can be exploited by the young devil to undermine his patient’s belief in his religion. The letters are a fascinating read because they lay bare the human heart and soul and bisect how every though, no matter how seemingly virtuous, can be undermined and twisted to a negative purpose.
The letters highlight the more mature and thoughtful ideas promoted by Screwtape to capture the patient’s soul by gradually leading him astray and using relationships with other people to cement his newly developed attitudes and viewpoints as opposed to Wormwood who wants to dash in and lure the patient into a big and exciting sin which will, he thinks, guarantee his soul as theirs. Wormwood learns, but not quickly enough, that it is not easy to keep a person submerged in disbelieving and questioning behaviour towards the church and also that men are easily swayed by the females that come into their lives.
The relationship between Screwtape and Wormwood is somewhat pitted as Wormwood reports his uncle to the Infernal authorities for making a perceived positive statement about God. Screwtape depends his position, but expresses his displeasure at his nephew’s treacherous behaviour.
The last part of the book, entitled Screwtape proposes a toast, was my favourite part of the book. It takes a darkly humerous look at the failure of modern schooling and the modern lifestyle and criticizes it for producing insipid and wishywashy sinners. He explains that in the post WWII world there are no dark and exciting evil people and neither are there any great heroes. He sees this last point as a great win over the Enemy as he sees it as a great failure in God’s creation which was intended to be in his image.
This is a remarkable book and I highly recommend it for people who are interested in thinking about the nature of people and their relationships, both with higher deities and with their fellows and also who will enjoy a cynical analysis of the failure of democracy and the modern systems.