The Screwtape Letters is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.”
At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation — and triumph over it — ever written. His letters are signed, save one, “Your affectionate uncle”, yet Uncle Screwtape’s purposes in writing to his young nephew are hardly innocent. Penned in a brisk, businesslike style, old Screwtape offers the gullible Tempter Wormwood fiendishly clever advice on his most pressing concern: the winning of young lives to the devil.
First published in 1941, The Screwtape Letters, a perennial best seller, has earned a place in the library of classics. The truths contained in C.S. Lewis’s treatise on human nature are as old as the world, but his witty observations continue to confront and challenge believers and nonbelievers alike.
The outcome of Screwtape’s correspondence is not know. But judging from his final sign-off — “Your increasingly and ravenously affectionate uncle” — his appetite for evil has not lessened.
I have to admit that The Screwtape Letters is a lot. Just a lot. Despite its short length, Lewis packed in plenty of his philosophy and leaves a lot to be discovered by the reader.
Concepts of human nature and what makes a person good or bad are somehow enlivened in Screwtape’s very practical, often dry, but sometimes intriguing letters. As a work of fiction, it’s interesting enough but it doesn’t strike me as an honest classic.
While I think it’s true that “believers and nonbelievers alike” can find some interesting tidbits to chew on, the story is at times laughable to a non-Christian reader. For me, I think this comes from Lewis’s one-dimensional interpretation of atheists. Some interpretations imply that atheists avoid scientific inquiry and are overtly materialistic while also being eternally unhappy. Obviously, none of these points are accurate nor should anyone make such broad assumptions about an entire group of people. Whether that’s up your alley or not is for you to decide.
Photo and synopsis from Amazon