The Screwtape Letters

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The weak, young, and deeply uncertain human being whose moral progress—and lack of progress—defines the plot of the novel. Much like Wormwood, the patient is less of a character with unique thoughts, feelings, and motivations than he is a plot device allowing C.S. Lewis to construct a theory of Christianity. (In Christian fiction, there is a long tradition of “blank” characters of exactly this type—in fact, the general name we give to this kind of character—Everyman—is an allusion to a Christian morality play from the 16th century.) Even so, the patient can be taken as an embodiment of the virtues and vices of Europe at the time when C.S. Lewis wrote his book. Thus, the patient is capable of some virtues, such as honesty, loyalty, and bravery, and yet he is also weak, arrogant, and prone to exaggeration, with a bad habit of valuing new fashions more highly than old truths. Ultimately, the patient finds a Christian community for himself, and dies in an air raid during World War II, having ensured his place in Heaven.

The patient Quotes in The Screwtape Letters

The The Screwtape Letters quotes below are all either spoken by The patient or refer to The patient . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper edition of The Screwtape Letters published in 2001.
Letter I Quotes

Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" or "false", but as "academic" or "practical", "outworn" or "contemporary”, "conventional" or "ruthless". Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church.

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Screwtape argues that it's now common for "intelligent" people to speak about philosophy in terms of fashion and history, not truth and falsehood. Thus, in studying religions and philosophies, people like the patient are encouraged to learn ideas are in vogue or are controversial, rather than which ideas are actually true. Furthermore, some doctrines (like the ideas of philosophers such as Hegel and Nietzsche) relativize the concepts of truth and falsehood altogether, arguing that a statement isn't necessarily true or false—instead, it might be true at one time and false at another, or somewhat true and false simultaneously.

In all, the passage argues that Christianity is the ultimate rational doctrine—the doctrine that maintains that ideas are either true or false, and nothing else. The passage is important, then, because it sets up the project of Lewis's entire book: to use logic, reason, and careful thought to "prove" that Christianity is correct, and all so-called "intellectual" doctrines are nonsensical.

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If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don't let him get away from that invaluable "real life". But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is "the results of modem investigation". Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

The passage reinforces the idea that reason and Christianity are friends, not enemies. Lewis, writing from the perspective of a devil, shows that the best way to corrupt a human being is to make him believe in the vague idea of science, not to practice reason itself. The key point here is that real science is dangerous to the devils, because it supports the principles of Christianity (at least according to Lewis)—so the patient must not be allowed to get too close to science.

By implication, the passage suggests that people choose to believe things because they're novel and interesting, not because they're true or false. The patient chooses to identify as a "scientific" kind of person, not because he knows anything about science, but because he wants to seem intelligent and knowledgeable. As Lewis suggests, a devil's best course of action is to keep human beings bouncing from one trendy ideology to another, never actually teaching anyone anything. The only real source of knowledge about the universe, it's further suggested, is Christianity.

Letter VII Quotes

All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged.

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient , God
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

In this famous passage, Screwtape argues that extremism is always easy to twist into sinfulness (and therefore helpful to the cause of evil)--unless the extremism is a form of devotion to God himself.

There are several senses in which extremism appears to be a danger to the soul. By devoting themselves to an idea or a cause, human beings turn away from God, worshipping a "false idol" instead. No matter what the idol might be—football, Marxism, alcohol, etc.—the implication appears to be that humans are equipped to worship one and only one divine authority. Thus by holding extreme opinions about anything other than God, they're essentially replacing him.

Letter IX Quotes

The mere word phase will very likely do the trick. I assume that the creature has been through several of them before—they all have—and that he always feels superior and patronising to the ones he has emerged from, not because he has really criticised them but simply because they are in the past. (You keep him well fed on hazy ideas of Progress and Development and the Historical Point of View, I trust, and give him lots of modern Biographies to read? The people in them are always emerging from Phases, aren't they?)

You see the idea? Keep his mind off the plain antithesis between True and False. Nice shadowy expressions—"It was a phase"—"I've been through all that"—and don't forget the blessed word "Adolescent"…

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Screwtape reiterates the importance of jargons, trends, and fashion to the devils' cause. Because Christianity is the only true doctrine—and a very simple truth at that—the devils must corrupt humans by appealing to their vanity and their love for "something new." Thus Screwtape suggests that Wormwood fill the patient's head with the word "phase." This word, Screwtape explains, is important to the devils' cause because it can be used to relativize and dismiss truth. Screwtape hopes that the patient will come to dismiss the periods of the patient's life in which he was a Christian, reasoning that these periods were just passing phases. The word "phase" further reflects the intellectual trends of the 20th century, when the doctrines of Hegel and Marx argued that truth was relative—what was true yesterday may be false tomorrow.

Humans, it's suggested, don't know what's good for them. Although Christianity is plain and true, humans have an unfortunate habit of embracing the new for its own sake. Thus, they'll often move past Christianity simply because it's "old news." Because of the embrace of "phases" in the intellectual life of the time, it's much easier for humans to trick themselves into turning their backs on ideas that they once knew to be true.

Letter XII Quotes

Obviously you are making excellent progress. My only fear is lest in attempting to hurry the patient you awaken him to a sense of his real position. For you and I, who see that position as it really is, must never forget how totally different it ought to appear to him. We know that we have introduced a change of direction in his course which is already carrying him out of his orbit around the Enemy; but he must be made to imagine that all the choices which have effected this change of course are trivial and revocable. He must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space.

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Screwtape insists that Wormwood mustn't be too hasty in drawing the patient toward the path of evil. If the patient moves toward evil too quickly, he'll realize he's becoming evil, "wise up," and return to Christianity. In short, the more quickly successful Wormwood is the less successful he'll be in the long-run.

The passage establishes that the deck is stacked against Screwtape and the other devils. Humans have a natural instinct to embrace good and righteousness, and God wants them to turn to him—it's this instinct that would prevent the patient from joining with evil too rapidly.

The image of the patient traveling through space is also a potent one, and a reflection of the idea that Heaven and Hell aren't necessarily places, but are states of closeness to God. Heaven is blissful and beautiful because it involves being near to God, while Hell is torture because it means being alone in the "cold and dark of utmost space."

Letter XIV Quotes

Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it.

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 70-71
Explanation and Analysis:

Along with defending Christianity, Lewis also uses The Screwtape Letters to voice many of his opinions about the problems with society and its view of religion. One of these issues is the idea of humility—many people think that being humble means being self-deprecating, even when to do so is untruthful. But as Screwtape explains, God never said he wanted human beings to deny their own talents—and yet it's often assumed that this is precisely what "good Christians" are expected to do. In reality, God tells humans to celebrate themselves, and yet accept that they are not the "owners" of their own talents. Nobody "makes" their own intelligence, strength, or good health—only God can give such gifts to his own creations. As always, Lewis stresses that humility—true humility, not the typical caricature of humility—is the obvious truth: nobody could argue that Albert Einstein was in any way responsible for his own genius, but also no one would argue that Einstein should have pretended he was stupid. Therefore, it's the devils' job to confuse humans, preventing them from seeing the obvious truth.

Letter XIX Quotes

You complain that my last letter does not make it clear whether I regard being in love as a desirable state for a human or not. But really, Wormwood, that is the sort of question one expects them to ask! Leave them to discuss whether "Love", or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on altars, or teetotalism, or education, are "good" or "bad". Can't you see there's no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us. Thus it would be quite a good thing to make the patient decide that "love" is "good" or "bad".

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Screwtape continues to backpedal regarding his philosophy of love. Screwtape has previously claimed that God loves humanity, while also arguing that love is loathsome or even impossible. While he's managed to weasel his way out of appearing to contradict himself, Wormwood appears to be trying to get Screwtape to contradict himself again, asking Screwtape, point-blank, if love is good or bad.

Screwtape is forced to answer that love is neither good nor bad. While Screwtape's answer might seem like more backpedaling, there's a grain of truth in it. Screwtape has already made it clear that love for God is the only kind of love that should be unconditional. Other kinds of love—indeed, other kinds of human behavior—may be either good or bad. To argue that celibacy or patriotism are always good or bad would be to make a judgment in a vacuum, and as Screwtape argues, vacuums don't exist in life. Every virtue, belief, or action serves in its time and place to move a human soul either towards or away from God.

Letter XXI Quotes

He regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption "My time is my own". Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Screwtape satirizes the notion that humans have a "right" to their own free time. Screwtape knows perfectly well that human beings don't own their own time—instead, God has given them their time on the Earth. But humans falsely believe that time is their "birthright"—and therefore, that anyone or anything that deprives them of their time is an annoyance or an enemy.

The notion that human beings own their own time is so fundamental to human life that few people ever stop to consider how illogical it is. Lewis uses the character of Screwtape to shed light on the fallacies of time, reinforcing the point that Christianity is the only logical doctrine, while all other ideas about the universe are contradictory.

Letter XXII Quotes

I have looked up this girl's dossier and am horrified at what I find. Not only a Christian but such a Christian—a vile, sneaking, simpering, demure, monosyllabic, mouse-like, watery, insignificant, virginal, bread-and-butter miss. The little brute. She makes me vomit.

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage is a good example of how Lewis uses humor, contradiction, and the principle of reductio ad absurdum to defend Christianity. From the perspective of Screwtape, the patient's new lover is revolting: she's sweet, virtuous, and lovable; everything a devil would hate. From the reader's perspective, however, the patient's lover is obviously a wonderful person whom the patient is lucky to have met. The fact that Screwtape refers to this woman as a "brute" is a clear sign that we're not meant to take any of his judgements seriously: his inability to feel the basic human emotion of love renders him incapable of seeing the beauty in the patient's relationship with his new lover.

Letter XXV Quotes

It is here that the general Evolutionary or Historical character of modern European thought (partly our work) comes in so useful. The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking "Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?" they will neglect the relevant questions.

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient , God
Page Number: 138-139
Explanation and Analysis:

Screwtape explains that the recent trends in European intellectual life (he seems to be referring to such movements as Marxism, Freudianism, Hegelianism, etc.) are destructive to humanity—in fact, he claims that devils were largely responsible for popularizing such intellectual movements in the first place. The reason that recent trends in intellectual life are so harmful, Screwtape goes on, is that they distract humanity from the basic, relevant questions about the world—questions about right and wrong.

Lewis was a lifelong opponent of the "big three" intellectual doctrines of the 19th century: Marxism, Freudianism, and Darwinism. (See Background Information.) As has been pointed out many times, all three of these ideologies deprived human beings of their free will by arguing that people do things for more complicated and elusive reasons than had previously been assumed. Suddenly, the basic question, "is this the right thing to do?" was replaced by a flurry of other questions: "what social group will benefit?" (Marxism), or "how's your relationship with your mother?" (Freudianism). In Lewis's view, modern ideologies replace truth with a mountain of irrelevant information, distracting human beings from their most basic moral instincts.

Letter XXVIII Quotes

The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth. While they are young we find them always shooting off at a tangent.

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 155-156
Explanation and Analysis:

Screwtape makes the argument that older, more confident people are easier to corrupt than younger, more innocent people. At a young age, human beings feel a natural desire to be close to God in Heaven—in other words, they have an easier time grasping the basic moral truths of the world, and they feel a sense of discomfort on Earth, a longing for something more. As humans grow up, however, they become more and more attached to their lives on the Earth, and thus more narrow-minded and worldly.

Lewis steers his readers toward the strange idea that life isn't all that good for human beings. The longer humans spend on the Earth, the easier it becomes for devils to corrupt them to Satan's point of view. The goal of one's life on Earth is to increase one's love for God by living a happy, moral life. Most of the usual benefits of having a long life—making money, becoming famous, etc.—are just distractions from the salvation of the soul, the only thing that ultimately matters to a human being.

Letter XXXI Quotes

Rest assured, my love for you and your love for me are as like as two peas. I have always desired you, as you (pitiful fool) desired me. The difference is that I am the stronger. I think they will give you to me now; or a bit of you. Love you? Why, yes. As dainty a morsel as ever I grew fat on. You have let a soul slip through your fingers.

Related Characters: Screwtape (speaker), Wormwood , The patient
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout the book, we've been wondering whether Screwtape really cares about Wormwood at all. We're told again and again that devils believe in practicalities and selfishness and nothing else, and yet we've also been given some evidence that Screwtape genuinely wants to help Wormwood succeed. Thus, it's not until the finale of the book that it becomes clear that Screwtape despises Wormwood, as all devils despise all other deviles. Like all the citizens of Hell, Screwtape believes in the doctrine of strength and the "zero-sum game"—his victory is someone else's defeat, without exception. Thus, when Wormwood fails to corrupt the patient, Screwtape is overjoyed: he gets to punish the unfortunate Wormwood by eating him and absorbing him into himself.

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The patient Character Timeline in The Screwtape Letters

The timeline below shows where the character The patient appears in The Screwtape Letters. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Letter I
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
...letter, addressed to “my dear Wormwood.” A yet unnamed writer encourages Wormwood to influence “our patient” by controlling what he reads and who he talks to. The writer points out, however,... (full context)
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
...falsehood, but nowadays, they’re trained to study dozens of beliefs that contradict one another. The patient thinks of beliefs as being useful or useless, not true or false. For this reason,... (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
...it encourages humans to think abstractly. Wormwood’s goal, the writer concludes, is to confuse the patient, not educate him. He signs the letter, “Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.” (full context)
Letter II
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Screwtape’s second letter begins with the news that Wormwood’s patient has become a Christian. Screwtape encourages Wormwood not to despair, since many humans have flirted... (full context)
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Wormwood should try to control where the patient sits when he goes to church, Screwtape advises. The patient is a fool, meaning that... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
...moment after they’ve bravely begun a new project—which could be marriage, school, or, in the patient’s case, Christianity. This disappointment occurs because the Enemy creates humans to be free. Freedom is... (full context)
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
As the patient sits in church, looking at the odd, ugly people around him, it might occur to... (full context)
Letter III
Love Theme Icon
Screwtape references information Wormwood has given him about the patient’s mother. He advises Wormwood to talk to Glubose, a “colleague” whose job is tempting the... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Screwtape lists methods for creating a rift between the patient and his mother. The first method is to keep the patient thinking about “inner life.”... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Screwtape’s second method for creating a rift between the patient and his mother is to render the patient’s prayers for his mother vague and dull.... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Screwtape’s third method is to draw the patient’s attention to behaviors of his mother that he finds annoying. His fourth method is to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Screwtape asks Wormwood if the patient’s mother is angry or jealous that the patient has adopted Christianity without his mother’s help.... (full context)
Letter IV
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
...encourage the praying person to think of himself, rather than of God. Thus, when the patient prays for bravery from God, Wormwood should encourage the patient to try to be brave. (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Wormwood can tamper with the patient’s prayer by encouraging him to think of God in concrete, visual terms. There are many... (full context)
Letter V
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Screwtape observes that Wormwood has experienced the thrill of success: the patient is anxious about the war, and has begun to doubt Christianity. Wormwood has encouraged this... (full context)
Letter VI
Love Theme Icon
Screwtape is happy to hear from Wormwood that the patient is eligible for military service. The patient should be in a state of uncertainty and... (full context)
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
...thought, Wormwood should focus his attention on the “thought” itself, not its object. When the patient thinks a sinful thought, Wormwood should focus his attention on the object of the thought.... (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
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By the same logic, Screwtape goes on, Wormwood should convince the patient to feel malice for those nearby and love for those far away. In this way,... (full context)
Letter VII
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Screwtape discusses whether or not Wormwood should reveal the existence of devils to the patient. Devils should conceal their existence, Screwtape argues. In the past, however, devils would occasionally reveal... (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Screwtape takes up the problem of whether to make the patient an extreme patriot or pacifist. In the end, he suggests, it doesn’t matter what the... (full context)
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
If the patient is a physical coward and an uneasy believer in God, as Screwtape guesses he is,... (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
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Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Whether Wormwood makes the patient an extreme pacifist or patriot, he should try to convince the patient to incorporate Christianity... (full context)
Letter VIII
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
...previously received a letter from Wormwood in which Wormwood expresses his “Great hopes” that the patient is losing his religion. Screwtape angrily tells Wormwood that he must consider the law of... (full context)
Letter X
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Screwtape has heard from Triptweeze, an associate of Wormwood’s, that the patient has made new acquaintances who are tempting him away from God. There is a middle-aged... (full context)
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Screwtape acknowledges that the patient will quickly realize that his Christianity conflicts with the couple’s skeptical, secular way of looking... (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
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Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
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Screwtape notes, amusedly, that the patient must not realize that he is being tempted. The patient probably associates the entire concept... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Screwtape advises Wormwood to encourage the patient to spend more time with the married couple, thereby causing him to neglect his work,... (full context)
Letter XI
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Screwtape has learned from Wormwood that the patient has befriended the married couple’s other friends. In his last letter, Wormwood mentioned that these... (full context)
Letter XII
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Screwtape praises Wormwood for his excellent progress in corrupting the patient, but warns him that if he moves the patient away from God too quickly, the... (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Wormwood should try to inspire a feeling of vague dissatisfaction in the patient. This feeling shouldn’t be powerful enough to “shock” him back into piety, but a weak... (full context)
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
...Nothing is strong.” In a sense, Nothing is the devils’ greatest weapon—Nothing will encourage the patient to avoid God and feel miserable. Screwtape encourages Wormwood to push the patient away from... (full context)
Letter XIII
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Screwtape has just received a letter from Wormwood in which Wormwood describes having let the patient “slip through his fingers.” The end result of Wormwood’s error is that the patient has... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Screwtape lists Wormwood’s errors. He allowed the patient to read a book for the patient’s own pleasure, and he allowed the patient to... (full context)
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
...a thing for its own sake is that the human cannot be tempted, as the patient has been, by appeals to what other people think or enjoy. (full context)
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Screwtape encourages Wormwood to continue working on the patient. Wormwood’s most important strategy should be to prevent the patient from acting in any way... (full context)
Letter XIV
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
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Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
The patient has regained his faith in Christianity, Screwtape has learned from Wormwood, but—very alarmingly for the... (full context)
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Screwtape advises Wormwood to influence the patient to forget the true meaning of humility. True humility is the forgetting of the self,... (full context)
Letter XV
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
...of his arguments about the future, Screwtape concludes that it is equally good for Wormwood’s patient to be afraid of the future or hopeful for the future. In either case, the... (full context)
Letter XVI
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Screwtape has learned from Wormwood that the patient only visits a single church. Screwtape is angry that Wormwood has not told him this... (full context)
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Screwtape discusses the two churches near the patient’s home. One is run by a vicar who tries to make his sermons as secular... (full context)
Letter XVII
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
...explains that Wormwood is clearly ignorant of history. Wormwood should talk to Glubose about the patient’s mother, who is a glutton for delicacy. It is gluttony in this form, not gluttony... (full context)
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Screwtape explains the mindset of the patient’s mother. She believes in the principle of “all I want.” She thinks that her food... (full context)
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Screwtape encourages Wormwood to use the patient’s gluttony against him. Because he is a man, he is more likely to indulge in... (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
...main use of gluttony as excess, Screwtape concludes, is that it weakens chastity. If the patient tries to repair his chastity, Wormwood should convince him to take up exercise rather than... (full context)
Letter XIX
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
...from him. He adds that it would be “quite a good thing” to make the patient decide that love is either good or bad. (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
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The patient might decide that love is bad, Screwtape suggests. If this is the case, then he... (full context)
Letter XX
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Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Screwtape notes that God has ended Wormwood’s attacks on the patient’s chastity. While this was inevitable, Screwtape argues, Wormwood should think about convincing the patient that... (full context)
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
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Screwtape explains to Wormwood that he should make the patient hunger for women, of which there are two fundamental types in every man’s mind. The... (full context)
Letter XXI
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Screwtape is here writing to answer Wormwood’s question about manipulating the patient’s irritability through sexual temptation. Screwtape assents that sexual temptation “is an excellent time” for attacking... (full context)
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The assumption that the patient’s time belongs to him, Screwtape acknowledges, is absurd. The patient does not own time, any... (full context)
Letter XXII
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Screwtape has learned from Wormwood that the patient is in love. Moreover, he is in “the worst kind of love” possible. Wormwood has... (full context)
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Screwtape describes the woman with whom the patient has fallen in love. She is Christian, “simpering” in her sincerity, and virginal. She is... (full context)
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Based on his description of the patient’s love interest, Screwtape criticizes God for being “a hedonist at heart.” Although God appears to... (full context)
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Screwtape knows from Wormwood’s letters that the patient has met his lover’s entire family, and visited their house many times. The house is... (full context)
Letter XXIII
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Screwtape reveals that the patient is meeting more and more Christians every day through his new lover. This means that... (full context)
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Screwtape explains the third strategy that Wormwood can use to manipulate the patient: he can appeal to arguments about the history of Christianity. Many Christian writers, he explains,... (full context)
Letter XXIV
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Screwtape has been in contact with Slumtrinket, the devil in charge of the patient’s lover. Slumtrinket has found a weakness in the patient’s lover: like so many young women... (full context)
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Screwtape explains how the new information about the patient’s lover can be used to influence the patient. He argues that young novices are always... (full context)
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Wormwood must convince the patient that his new friends and lover are “his people,” and that he has finally found... (full context)
Letter XXV
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Screwtape points out that the problem with the patient’s new friend group and community is that it is “mere Christianity.” If men must be... (full context)
Letter XXVI
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As the patient pursues a courtship of his lover, Screwtape advises that Wormwood should try to influence him... (full context)
Letter XXVII
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Screwtape criticizes Wormwood for doing very little to tempt the patient. Wormwood has tried to distract the patient from thoughts of God by encouraging him to... (full context)
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Screwtape suggests a new way of tempting the patient: “petitionary” prayers. These are prayers in which the patient asks for specific things, such as... (full context)
Letter XXVIII
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...has written, gleefully, that there will probably be air raids in the town where the patient lives. Screwtape angrily reminds Wormwood that the patient’s death would be a disaster—his soul is... (full context)
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Screwtape hopes that the patient will survive the air raids so that he will enter middle age, which is an... (full context)
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...them die very young. With this is mind, Screwtape hopes, on Wormwood’s behalf, that the patient survives and lives into old age, so that Wormwood will have ample opportunity to corrupt... (full context)
Letter XXIX
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Screwtape has learned that the Germans are certain to bomb the patient’s community, and that the patient, due to his “duties,” will be in the most dangerous... (full context)
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Of the sins that Wormwood could instill in the patient, Screwtape encourages Wormwood to avoid pride, because this would involve filling the patient with courage... (full context)
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Screwtape considers the possibility that Wormwood could fill the patient with cowardice. Cowardice is one of the only sins that Western society has not learned... (full context)
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Because Wormwood cannot safely fill the patient with cowardice, he must adopt a subtler tactic. In a moment of panic, Wormwood must... (full context)
Letter XXX
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...his letter by telling Wormwood that he has heard from the Infernal Police that the patient’s actions in the first air raid were “the worst possible.” He was terribly frightened, meaning... (full context)
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Wormwood’s only success is in making the patient extremely tired, meaning that he is more susceptible to vice. Nevertheless, Screwtape reminds Wormwood that... (full context)
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In order to capitalize on the patient’s fatigue, Wormwood must fill him with false hope. The patient should believe that the air... (full context)
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Another way that Wormwood can manipulate the patient involves his perception of reality. When the patient sees dead bodies on the ground, he... (full context)
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With Wormwood’s encouragement, the patient will come to regard the nightmares of war as more “real” than his love for... (full context)
Letter XXXI
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The patient has died in an air raid. In the moments leading up to his death, the... (full context)
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In the final seconds before he died, the patient saw God. Wormwood, Screwtape guesses, saw God too, and cowered before him. Perhaps Wormwood was... (full context)
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Screwtape reminds Wormwood that the patient is now in a place where Wormwood can no longer tempt him—indeed, any temptation he... (full context)
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Here, Screwtape acknowledges that he can say no more of the patient—he has no idea what fate awaits him in Heaven, since devils aren’t allowed there. Screwtape... (full context)