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 married couple—rich, clever, seemingly intellectual, pacifist—with whom the patient seems to enjoy spending time.
Up to this point, there haven’t been any specific characters in the novel who tempt the patient away from God, with the obvious exception of the devils. Here, Lewis introduces a new challenge—humans who, through their own arrogance or ignorance, lead the patient astray.
Screwtape acknowledges that the patient will quickly realize that his Christianity conflicts with the couple’s skeptical, secular way of looking at the world. He will begin to ape the couple’s attitudes, and then the couple’s words. Ultimately, he may grow to adopt their beliefs as his own.
Screwtape makes clear the basic challenge to the patient’s faith. He’s describing it as a glorious possibility, but we understand it as a new conflict in the plot (unless we’re on the devils’ side!).
Screwtape notes, amusedly, that the patient must not realize that he is being tempted. The patient probably associates the entire concept of temptation with Puritanism, a much-ridiculed form of Christianity that nonetheless makes people sober, chaste, and moderate. When the patient realizes that his Christianity conflicts with his friends’ secularism, Wormwood can then encourage the patient to enjoy the feeling of a “double life.” Thus, when the patient prays in a church, he will be thinking about the witty conversation he had with his new friends.
There’s a lot of important information in this section. First, Lewis reinforces the fallacy of “progress” when he discusses Puritanism. Puritanism is often understood to be old-fashioned and outdated—this reflects humans’ tendency to believe that ideas need to change over time. Second, Lewis illustrates the fallacy of the “double life,” a fixture of modern philosophy from Sartre to W.E.B. DuBois. For Lewis, the double life is anything but an inevitability: it’s consciously embraced by modern people because it’s pleasurable.
Screwtape advises Wormwood to encourage the patient to spend more time with the married couple, thereby causing him to neglect his work, his church, and his mother. His mother will become jealous and alarmed, increasing the tension between the two of them.
The plot of the novel here approaches a sort of “romantic triangle,” where the devils try to use the patient’s affections against him and make those close to him jealous or unhappy.