The Screwtape Letters (1942)

by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis hit on a brilliant device for exploring Christianity by adopting the persona of a senior demon, Screwtape, writing a series of letters to a lesser one, Wormwood, providing helpful hints on undermining the burgeoning faith of a developing Christian.

Hell is depicted as the ultimate bureaucracy, staffed by tempters who are motivated by the fear of punishment (not unlike Christians motivated by the fear of damnation?).


Lewis frequently displays great insight when dissecting the less charitable elements of human nature.

C.S. Lewis

However, he also comes across as disdainful, dismissive, and condescending toward non-Christians.

At times, he reveals prejudices that, in my eyes at least, disqualify him from being the moral authority that many believe him to be.

The best example of this can be found in the epilogue, "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," in which Lewis laments the tendency of some to interpret the political ideal of "equality" as a moral justification for dragging everyone down to the same level of mediocrity.

He claims that the feeling that prompts some to claim that they are just as good as anyone else is one of the root causes of sin and is really just "the itching, writhing, smarting awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept."


Among the examples of inferiority that he provides are some really stunning cases, whether stunningly irrelevant and frivolous (such as the claim that toy dogs are inferior to Saint Bernards) or stunningly wrong-headed and shallow (such as the claim that plain women are inferior to beauties).

Whatever you may think of his content, though, Lewis always makes his case clearly and, in this case, through the conception of a brilliant metaphor.



Popular posts from this blog

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Hel on Earth! (The Mighty Thor #487) (1995)