The Screwtape Letters is the book by Clive Staples Lewis, one of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century. This masterpiece was written in 1942 and published for the first time in book form by Geoffrey Bles in London. The chosen genre of The Screwtape Letters, Christian satire, helps to underline the significance of faith and people’s wrong interpretation of sins and religion in general.
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This fiction consists of 31 letters, which present appropriate pieces of advice of how to procure patients’ souls, given by Screwtape to Wormwood, his nephew. All these letters and the work as a whole are dedicated to J. R. R. Tolkien, another great English writer and poet. Screwtape performs his role of a mentor on a really brilliant level; and still inexperienced tempter, Wormwood, is eager to analyze the lessons and enlarge his level of knowledge in order to amaze his teacher and even surpass him.
The reader of The Screwtape Letters gets a chance to look at the letters, written by Screwtape only. In spite of the fact that it should a two-way correspondence, the author of the book allows the reader to use own imagination and think about the manner of writing of Wormwood. Each letter begins with Screwtape’s discontent caused by numerous Wormwood’s failures. So, the protagonist of the story turns out to be Screwtape; he presents new information to the reader, this is why all facts and events are described from one point of view only.
Screwtape focuses on different aspects of our life: how human soul makes decisions, what has more significant impact on human decisions, and how actually the devil may temp a human soul and turn it from something good to something evil. Screwtape letters help the reader comprehend that all Christian’s relationships are under a threat to be influenced by evil. Families and friends cannot even guess how tempting a sin may be.
Even a prayer in a church has all chances to be tempted by evil and gets more chances to tempt other people, who come for help. In fact, there are two active characters in the story: Screwtape and Wormwood. However, the story is not complete without those patients, Screwtape tells about. If we look at this work from some general perspective, we may see a professional devil, Screwtape, as a major character, another devil-beginner, Wormwood, as another active character, and the Patient, a passive character, who still plays a significant role in the story.
To my mind, the major purpose of all these letters, which are so brightly presented in The Screwtape Letters, is to warn people about the threat of being tempted even by the closest person. The point is that there will always be some Mr. Screwtape, who will be eager to teach his nephew to tempt people and prove that evil may be good and good is usually evil. This is why the idea that there is somebody, who sits of people’s shoulders and gives some hints to follow, comes to be true.
Lewis presents enough persuasive ideas and stories, which make lots of readers believe and think over again why people take certain steps and who may control them. These lessons, which help to improve our life, turn out to be rather effective and interesting. This work is not just a certain topic and different characters; it is a lesson, each character should learn, comprehend, and use. The beauty of the work lies in its truthfulness. People will hardly realize how complicated this world is.
It is not just simple streets with grass under our feet and sky over our heads. People are considered to be a little piece of something more huge and important. If it should happen that a person understands that he/she is a part of our universe, and someone may impact it somehow, the results may be rather unexpected. Some readers cannot still believe how complicated the world is, some readers still accept this story as one more fiction that presents unbelievable imagination of the writer, and some readers try to analyze the received information and use it in order to improve their lives.
As any literary work, The Screwtape Letters has its own strengths and weaknesses. Quite simple and clear language makes this story interesting to read for many people with different levels of education. Short letters with clear topics do not bother the reader and provide him/her with a chance to get some information and have some time to think over it. To my mind, one of the most obvious negative aspects of this book is that the reader has a chance to evaluate the situation from one point of view only.
This is why it turns out to be rather difficult to accept the same information from Wormwood or patients’ sides. Another negative point is cruel reality that is described so straight. Such terrible pieces of advice and understanding of evil and good, their connection and interaction – not each reader is ready for this. “Keep everything hazy in his [patient] mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the peculiar kind of clarity which Hell affords” (Lewis 2001, 7).
In general, C.S. Lewis creates just a wonderful masterpiece and calls it The Screwtape Letters. These letters are the lectures, which are always interesting to read and learn more and more. It is not enough to read this work one time and forget about it. This story stays in readers’ mind for a long period of time in order to give some hints and help people cope with possible difficulties. This is why this story should be certainly read by anyone, who wants to improve this life and comprehend its sense.
Lewis, Clive, S. The Screwtape Letters. HarperOne, 2001.