The Screwtape Letters: Wikis

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Screwtape redirects here. For the musical project "Screwtape", see Drew McDowall.
The Screwtape Letters  
Thescrewtapeletters.jpg
Recent edition cover
Author C. S. Lewis
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Christian satire
Publisher Geoffrey Bles
Publication date 1942
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 175 pp
ISBN 978-0-06-065293-7

The Screwtape Letters is a Christian apologetics novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as "the Patient".

Lewis dedicated The Screwtape Letters to his friend J. R. R. Tolkien.

Contents

Summary

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis provides a series of lessons in the importance of taking a deliberate role in living out Christian faith by portraying a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, as seen from devils' viewpoints. Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy ("Lowerarchy") of Hell, and acts as a mentor to Wormwood, the inexperienced tempter. In the body of the thirty-one letters which make up the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in the Patient, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine. Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it.

Versions of the letters were originally published in The Guardian, and the standard edition contains an introduction explaining how the author chose to write his story.

The Screwtape Letters is one of Lewis' most popular works, although Lewis claimed that it was "not fun" to write, and "resolved never to write another 'Letter'." (See his Preface to Screwtape Proposes a Toast.) However, in 1959 he wrote the sequel, Screwtape Proposes a Toast.

Both The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast have been released on both audio cassette and CD, with narration by John Cleese and Joss Ackland.

Plot overview

The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, a young demon named Wormwood. Screwtape's letters contain advice for how to turn Wormwood's "Patient", an ordinary man living in war-time England, toward "Our Father Below" (Devil / Satan) and away from "the Enemy" (God).

After the first letter, the Patient converts to Christianity, and Wormwood is given a severe rebuking and threatened with the "usual penalties" at the House of Correction for Incompetent Tempters. A striking contrast is formed between Wormwood and Screwtape during the rest of the book. Wormwood is depicted through Screwtape's letters as much closer to what conventional wisdom has said about demons, i.e., wanting to tempt his patient into extravagantly wicked and deplorable sins and constantly writing about the war that is going on for the latter half of the book. Screwtape, on the other hand, is not interested in getting the patient to commit anything spectacularly evil, saying that "the safest path to hell is the gradual one." He sees a demon's primary goal to befuddle and confuse, rather than tempt.

Lewis's use of this "correspondence" is both varied and hard-hitting. With his own views on theology, Lewis covers areas as diverse as sex, love, pride, gluttony, and war. Lewis, an Oxford scholar himself, suggests in his work that even intellectuals are not impervious to the influence of such demons, especially in regards to being led towards placated acceptance of the "Historical Point of View."

In the last letter, it emerges that the Patient has been killed during an air raid (World War II having broken out between the fourth and fifth letters), and has gone to Heaven. Wormwood is punished for letting a soul 'slip through his fingers' by being handed over to the fate that would have awaited his patient had he been successful: the consumption of his spiritual essence by the other demons. Screwtape responds to his nephew's desperate final letter by assuring him that he may expect just as much assistance from his "increasingly and ravenously affectionate" uncle as Screwtape would expect from Wormwood were their situations reversed, paralleling a situation where Wormwood himself turned his uncle over to Satan for making a religiously positive remark that would offend him.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast

The short sequel essay Screwtape Proposes a Toast, first published in 1959, is an addendum to The Screwtape Letters. It takes the form not of a letter but rather an after-dinner speech given by Screwtape at the Tempters' Training College for young demons. It first appeared as an article in the Saturday Evening Post.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast is Lewis's criticism of levelling and featherbedding trends in public education; more specifically, as he reveals in the foreword to the American edition, public education in America (though in the text, it is English education that is held up as the purportedly awful example).

The Cold War opposition between the West and the Communist World is explicitly discussed as a backdrop to the educational issues. Screwtape and other demons are portrayed as consciously using the subversion of education and intellectual thought in the West to bring about its overthrow by the communist enemy from without and within. In this sense Screwtape Proposes a Toast is more strongly political than The Screwtape Letters where no strong stand is made on political issues of the day, i.e., World War II.

Comic book adaptation

Marvel Comics and religious book publisher Thomas Nelson produced a comic book adaptation of The Screwtape Letters in 1994.[1]

Film adaptation

On Wednesday, 31 January 2006 it was announced that Walden Media had bought the rights to turn the book into a feature film. Walden Media is the same company that previously developed Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series. Ralph Winter (X-Men, Fantastic Four) and Douglas Gresham (Lewis' stepson) will co-produce. "With the right script," Winter said, "dealing with temptation and that whole upside down world, it could be a very, very interesting movie. And it's going to be dark. This isn't a light, happy, Narnia piece."

Stage adaptation

The Fellowship for the Performing Arts obtained from the Lewis estate the rights to adapt The Screwtape Letters for the stage. The initial production opened off-off-Broadway at Theatre 315 in New York City in January 2006. The initial three-week run was extended to eleven sold-out weeks by popular demand, and closed only because the theater was contractually obligated to another production.[2] It was co-written by Max McLean (who also starred) and Jeffrey Fiske (who also directed). A second, expanded production opened off Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clements on 18 October 2007, originally scheduled to run through at least 6 January 2008; the production re-opened at the Mercury Theater in Chicago in September 2008, and is currently on a national tour until January 2010.

Audio drama

Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, which received a Peabody Award and multiple Audie awards for excellence in broadcasting and production, was granted the rights to dramatize "The Screwtape Letters" as a feature length audio drama. Production began in 2008 and a fall 2009 release has been announced.[3] It has also been announced that Andy Serkis, known for playing Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, will be providing the voice for Screwtape. There is a 7-and-a-half minute video preview of the Radio Theatre production with interviews and making-of footage.[4]

Cultural references

The book itself may be considered to be a cultural reference to Mark Twain´s work Letters from the Earth, like The Great Divorce is to William Blake´s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Randy Alcorn wrote a similar book, Lord Foulgrin's Letters. Some demons' letters are found by a human and the demons are punished by Beelzebub for their incompetence in losing them. Alcorn has also written a sequel, The Ishbane Conspiracy.

The author Peter Kreeft wrote a book "in the style of" The Screwtape Letters called The Snakebite Letters.

In his series of very short stories, The Periodic Table of Science Fiction, science fiction author Michael Swanwick wrote the story titled Dysprosium in the style of a new, recent letter from Screwtape to Wormwood. In this story, "dysprosium" is described as an "element of confusion and miscommunication in language", something which has been a great success story for the Infernal Establishment.

The song Oubliette (Disappear) by The Receiving End of Sirens, is based on an excerpt from "The Screwtape Letters"[5]

Screwtape appears in the story "The Ministry of Lies"[6] from the collection "Fire from Heaven and Other Stories" by Philip Marshall.[7]

The song "My Dear Wormwood" from the album "As The World" by Echolyn, is directly inspired by the book.

Cartoonist Bill Watterson revealed in Calvin and Hobbes: The Tenth Anniversary Book that the character of Mrs. Wormwood, Calvin's teacher, was named for the character in The Screwtape Letters.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote a book titled "The Enoch Letters" following this same format, but set as letters from friends into and out of the translated city of Enoch.

In the music video for "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me", Bono is shown reading The Screwtape Letters while walking down a street.

In 2009 Dwight Longenecker wrote The Gargoyle Code described as "a book in the tradition of Screwtape Leters" Longenecker's book is also a Lent book. The demonic letters begin on Shrove Tuesday and end on Easter Day

Bibliography

  • Lewis, C. S. (2001), The Screwtape Letters, with Screwtape Proposes a Toast, HarperSanFrancisco, ISBN 0-06-065293-4  

References

  1. ^ Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters. The Christian classic series. New York: Marvel Comics, 1994. ISBN 978-0840762610
  2. ^ "About the NYC Production of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters". http://www.fpatheatre.com/current/. Retrieved 2007-10-06.  
  3. ^ http://www.radiotheatre.org
  4. ^ Video preview of audiotape
  5. ^ http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858677260/
  6. ^ "The Ministry of Lies"
  7. ^ ISBN 0-473-06590-8

External links

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Simple English

The Screwtape Letters  
Author C. S. Lewis
Country Ireland
Language English
Genre(s) Christian Satire
Publisher Geoffrey Bles
Make date 1942
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 175 pp
ISBN N/A

The Screwtape Letters is a book written by author and Christian scholar C. S. Lewis. It appeared in installments in The Guardian newspaper and was later published as a book in 1942. It is a series of letters written by a devil named Screwtape to his apprentice and nephew Wormwood. The letters are filled with advice for the young demon on how to tempt men. Screwtape tells Wormwood how to undo the work of God and work against Him.

The Screwtape Letters were greatly popular. It was published in 1941, and after that, it has sold very well around the world. Because it is funny and easy to read and understand, many people read it easily and have been influenced by it.

Main Characters

The two main characters that are inside the letters are Wormwood, a demon that has the job of leading his "patient" away from Christianity (or at least making him a useless Christian). Screwtape is Wormwood's uncle and a "high" demon.

Screwtape

Screwtape, a devil and the uncle of Wormwood, helps Satan and everything he stands for. He calls the devil our Father. He also fights against everything God stands for, calling God The Enemy. Wrong to him is right and right to him is wrong.

Ironically, even though many of the things he says are Biblically wrong, some of the things he says are, according to the Bible, true. He talks about the glory of heaven when the patient is taken up there, though he does not understand why God gives them to men. He admits to Wormwood that he does not know about his Enemy well enough. Screwtape cannot understand love and says in Letter 18 that he believes that God must have another, hidden reason to save men, since everybody is selfish and cannot love.

Screwtape is always afraid that God will step in and stop Wormwood's temptations. Screwtape says that when the patient prays to God for help, God always comes, so Screwtape is fearful.

At first, Screwtape thinks the patient's soul will go to hell. However, he is angry when Wormwood makes more and more mistakes. He feels that God is "winning the battle".

Setting

The book is set during the early years of World War II. This was the time when it was actually written. Lewis was living in England during the war. He went through many of the things that the patient goes through in The Screwtape Letters. Many of his first readers did, too. The book, however, focuses more on the spiritual battle between demons and their patient.


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