Review: The Screwtape Letters

Screwtape-LettersScrewtape is an experienced devil. His nephew Wormwood is just beginning his demonic career and has been assigned to secure the damnation of a young man who has just become a Christian…

I should start by saying: I’m an atheist. I don’t follow any religion now and never have, but I won’t say that I never will. I try to be open-minded about such things, learning and thinking about other beliefs.

And that’s why I read The Screwtape Letters. Religion should be irrelevant to your decision to read it – it’s a really good book that will make you think no matter what.

I will add, though, that Chronicles of Narnia this is not. I knew The Screwtape Letters would be more obviously Christian (as a little kid I was completely oblivious to the religious allegory in Narnia) but I wasn’t prepared for how dark it was.

This is not an easy book to read. It’s… violent isn’t quite the word I’m looking for. Let me think. Vicious. Screwtape was vicious in his treatment of humankind, “the Enemy” (God), and his nephew (who can’t seem to do anything right). What he said in his letters made me think very hard about the advantages and disadvantages of war, pride, love, and more.

Sometimes I didn’t agree with what Screwtape / Lewis thought. Consider the following quote from letter XVIII:

We have [persuaded] the humans that a curious, and usually short-lived, experience which they call “being in love” is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding.

Even if both people in a couple loathe each other, they should stay married? I just can’t wrap my mind around this. I don’t think people should divorce left and right for trivial reasons but if a couple is fighting, I’m not sure what is achieved by keeping them together. I googled Lewis’ thoughts on marriage just now to clarify what he wrote and evidently in Mere Christianity he said it would be better for the children. To a point, I suppose. I mean, it would be upsetting if my parents suddenly decided to split up but I can’t say I’d rather have them together if it meant I had to see them fighting.

Even so, I think reading The Screwtape Letters was beneficial. I didn’t always agree with C.S. Lewis but considering what he thought made me figure out more about what I thought, and that’s always a good thing.

As I wrote above, religion shouldn’t affect your view of this book. It’s brilliant no matter what and all the more fascinating because C.S. Lewis didn’t tell us, flat-out and dryly, what he believed. Instead he subverted it by having Screwtape write what demons believe, which is of course just the opposite of what we should think.

The Screwtape Letters is devilishly good and after you’ve finished groaning at my stupid joke there, I suggest you go read that book.

Rating: 3.5/5

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
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10 Responses to Review: The Screwtape Letters

  1. magicfishy says:

    Confession time – I was basically completely oblivious to religious allegory when I was younger. I read both Narnia and His Dark Materials without really picking up on the religious/atheistic themes in either. In my defense, I was in elementary school, so /really/ young to be doing literary analysis. Still though, the ending in particular of Narnia was hardly subtle, looking back, and if I recall correctly HDM has some scenes that I could mention but which I won’t for fear of spoilers. I’ve been meaning to read it again sometime, actually, just to pick up on the many thing that I either forgot or missed completely the first time around.

    So! The Screwtape Letters. The name sounds familiar, but I wasn’t aware of the plot until your review. It sounds interesting, and certainly moreso than a straightforward rant on his beliefs would be, even if the effect’s basically the same. Maybe I’ll give it a try some time, whether I end up agreeing with the messages of the story or not.

    • nevillegirl says:

      I was vaguely aware of the plot before I began, but the ending was a total surprise. I peeked at it about halfway through and misinterpreted it – it ends well for one character and terribly for another and I’d gotten the characters mixed up so that was a surprise. A very cool one. 😀 *is trying not to be spoilery*

  2. haha, “devilishly good” good one 😉 I really enjoyed this book when I read it. I found it both funny and thought provoking. I think it’s cool that even though you’re an athiest, you kept an open mind when reading it, and read it anyways! I think that shows that it could be beneficial to anyone. I know that as a Christian, I learned a lot from it as well. Great post!

  3. orphu44 says:

    Ooh, The Screwtape Letters! I actually really liked the book – I can’t think of anything offhand, except for maybe the bit about people making devils into caricatures and so more easily dismissing them, which was an interesting point.
    (I believe I read it after learning that Bill Watterson got Ms. Wormwood’s name from it, though, so make of that what you will.)

  4. Heather says:

    Also bear in mind the time he wrote the Screwtape letters. It was at a time when divorce was on the rise, and it was something people really frowned upon.

    • nevillegirl says:

      True, true. I just think it’s a bit arrogant for Lewis to say, “This is what all people should do regarding marriage.” If he thought marriage should be that way, good for him, but it seems a bit odd to say everyone should think of marriage in a certain way because he did.

  5. Cait says:

    I tried to read this…but, meh. I couldn’t get into it. I find that style of writing hard to read. Plus, I always feel weird when I read religion books. It makes me need to think about what I believe, which is definitely a good thing, but it can be confusing. But that is just moi. I probably should read deeper stuff and not spend my life with fluffy kids books. But I like kids books.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yeah, I can understand that. My copy is only about 150 pages but the writing style is complicated and I paused a lot to think about what Lewis said, so it took me several hours spread out over four days to finish the book.
      Ha ha, there’s definitely a big difference between TSL and kid’s books. It’s been on my to-read list for ages but I only got around to it because I hadn’t been to the library in weeks and didn’t have any YA to read. Now I do, and I’m surprised at how quickly I finish those fluffy books after reading so many classics because I was BORED.

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