by C. S. Lewis
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Synopsis: Wormwood has a problem, the soul he is charged with dragging down to Hell has converted to Christianity. In an effort to assist, his Uncle Screwtape, a senior devil, sends him a constant stream of advice based on the patient’s (the person’s) current mental and physical states. Based on Wormwood’s reports, Screwtape both evaluates the patient, and gives advice about how to subtlety nudge him closer to Hell, where the hordes of Devils look forward to feasting on his soul.
Review: It’s very hard to go wrong with C. S. Lewis, but people the world over agree that this is one of his finest works. Screwtape’s analysis on how to attack the patient are particularly poignant in that he frequently suggests two completely opposite approaches for each scenario. The conflict appears due to the fact that just about any virtue can be taken to an extreme or distorted in a way as to make it a sin instead. This occasionally makes the reading a bit tricky, for it is easy to recognize virtues, and Screwtape (and certainly the devil today) is a master of very slyly twisting those virtues. One may need to read over the passages a few times to pinpoint were the behaviors and attitudes really start to go wrong.
One could possibly consider this a guide book to the many ways our behaviors start to run amok. It is interesting to note that most of Screwtape’s attacks lead towards gradually building up ill feelings towards other people. The remainder are largely focused on how to get the patient to destroy any ability to believe in his own redemption and worth.
One thing that particularly interests me about the book is that it would be very easy for a good-intending Christian to take the words in here, and start desperately applying them to his or her own life. Certainly there are many areas and aspects of our daily life in which we are open to temptation. But one thing I do not believe Lewis intended of this book, was for the reader to now become fanatical about perfecting every aspect of his or her behavior. It is important to be aware of the tools used against us as we strive to become better people. But one should remember that the most vexing moments for both Screwtape and Wormwood occur when the patient simply turns to God and looks for peace in his life. In those moments Wordwood often finds that all his attacks are rebuffed no matter how clever they may be, and that the patient is shielded from the temptations Wormood is throwing at him. Thus we see that while it is important to recognize the various ways we can fall, ultimately, when we seek to become better, we are saved by grace and there is nothing more powerful that God’s love in lifting us up.
Still, these letters by a master tempter are a marvelous tool in the arsenal of Christians everywhere. I personally was able to look at just about every attack and recognize times in my life when I’ve allowed myself to slip into thought patterns or behaviors that are not condusive to becoming a better, more productive person. I would strongly encourage all people to read this book, not just Christians. Whether you believe in God or not, there are some behaviors that are to be avoided in life, and some that will help you in being a better friend, citizen, and person. This in not a book to be breezed through. This is a book to read with a pencil and postit notes, making marks and comments for yourself. And it is certainly a book to read over and over again.