The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters Letter XVIII Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Screwtape scolds Wormwood for his “college” education. Even though Wormwood studied under Slubgob, Screwtape insists that he must have learned at least a little bit about how to inspire sexual temptation in humans. Screwtape will try to explain the “finer points” of sexuality to Wormwood—points that Wormwood must have missed in college.
We begin to get a better sense of “life” (if it can be called that) for the devils—they have jobs, promotions, and colleges. Lewis’s comical portrayal of life for the devils is a caricature of modern human life—defined entirely by one’s education and employment, rather than one’s religion.
Themes
Proving Christianity True by Exploring Evil Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Devils have achieved great victories over mankind through sexuality, Screwtape explains. Their first victory of all, the fall of man, was a sexual victory. Henceforth, they have succeeded in using human poets and artists to convince the human species that “being in love” is the only reason to marry.
So far, we’ve seen how devils influence humans by suggesting certain thoughts to them. Here, we see that the devils can use this to exercise some control over art and culture as a whole. Thus, they’ve helped develop a skewed cultural view of romance.
Themes
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Screwtape explains the fundamental philosophy of Hell: “My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses.” God’s philosophy is the exact opposite: to promote cooperate, generosity, and love. This is the reason that God claims to appear in three forms as well as one: to show that the doctrine that things are separate is not the truth.
Here again, Screwtape and Lewis don’t dispute the “facts” that distinguish Heaven and Hell—they only disagree on which philosophy is better. Screwtape and Lewis see evil as a “zero-sum game,” whereby any victory for one person means a failure for others.
Themes
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Screwtape criticizes God for creating something as absurd as love. Even worse, God associates “innocent” sexual desire with love. The process of getting married is described as being of “one flesh” in the Bible.
There is nothing inherently un-Christian about sexual passion or love—as Lewis has already suggested, sin arises in the distortion or manipulation of these feelings.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Get the entire The Screwtape Letters LitChart as a printable PDF.
The screwtape letters.pdf.medium
Screwtape explains how devils manipulate God’s love to tempt humans. Because God has associated love and sexuality, devils try to convince humans that they must be in love with everyone they have sex with, and vice versa. As a result, many humans believe that lust is the only prerequisite for marriage—things like loyalty and respect are no longer important to them. Screwtape promises more information on love and sex in his next letter.
The relationship between love and sex is clearly too complicated for Lewis to do it justice in only a few paragraphs. Yet his key insight is clear and simple: humans conflate love and lust. It’s certainly true that there have been millions of unhappy marriages caused by precisely the error that Lewis identifies.
Themes
Love Theme Icon