The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis is as classic as it is difficult to define. Although C. S. Lewis is normally credited with writing The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters is far more subtle and thought-provoking for adult readers. While Lewis’ book could be categorized as fiction, it also reads as an apology (meaning reasoned defense) of the Christian religion.
Comprised of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew demon, Wormwood, The Screwtape Letters read like a series of lessons in the art of temptation. Screwtape is attempting to instruct his nephew so that Wormwood can successfully guide his human target (referred to as the Patient) toward the devil rather than God. Wormwood has all of the arts of a demon (deception, seduction, doubt, etc.) at his disposal, and he attempts to throw as many obstacles in the Patient’s path as possible.
C. S. Lewis’ style is masterfully ironic and witty. The voice that he creates as Screwtape, despite the fact that he is a senior demon, is full of a wary sort of humor. Even more humorous is the fact that Wormwood quickly proves to be an incompetent screw-up who will surely fail without his uncle’s advice. I cannot help but be amazed that Lewis managed to imbue such a serious topic with a surprisingly healthy dose of levity.
However, Lewis’ religious and philosophical musings are the most vital elements of The Screwtape Letters. Lewis does not shy away from any of the major questions that may sometimes gnaw at the faith of even the most ardent believer. At its heart, The Screwtape Letters is hopeful and supportive in its treatment of faith. The book certainly has the power to entertain, but its real purpose is to make the reader think.
C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters should appeal to anyone who is interested in the battle for souls between good and evil. Although Lewis is writing as a Christian for a Christian audience, there are pearls of wisdom in his letters that could apply to any thoughtful individual. In short, The Screwtape Letters is the sort of book that has the potential to change the way the reader thinks about the most important questions in life.