BY DANIEL T. GOMES
A PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE OF “FIENDISH” DELIGHT
Few works testify the essence and the creative ability
of their author as well as The Screwtape Letters,
perhaps the most ingenious and underestimated
of C. S. Lewis’ fiction books. With razor-sharp wit and
clever satire, Lewis uses the imaginary correspondence
between two demons to point out both virtues and flaws
in the Christian faith, as well as to expound on theological
questions from the Adversary’s point of view.
When you think the creator of Narnia and author of works such as Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce could not surprise you any further, a most unlikely of mail correspondences resurfaces to shock you and amaze you: The Screwtape Letters. A true testament to Lewis’ versatility and vision, the Letters detail the private correspondence between a senior demon, Screwtape, and his nephew Wormwood, as the latter seeks to prove himself by corrupting a young British man during WWII.
In these absurdly entertaining letters, Lewis describes the modern world and the Christian faith through Screwtape’s lens, skillfully using the demon’s point of view to provide both praise and criticism. From the Adversary’s perspective, the author calls out the downward spiral of morals in the secular world and the grotesque hypocrisy found in the Church. Right from the preface, Lewis is quick to explain that “there is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth,” and that even the demon’s assessments may not be accurate; nevertheless, they often are, and tragically so, much to mankind’s chagrin.
The language employed by Lewis is also demonstrative of his attention for detail. The simplest things, in this instance, are those that make the greatest impact: expressions used by the demonic characters such as “the Enemy” and “Our Father Below” in reference to God and the Devil, respectively, enhance the immersive allure of these letters. The demons’ treacherous personalities and egregious views on mankind reveal themselves effortlessly, serving as poignant reminders of our own flaws.
In spite of its obscurity, The Screwtape Letters has sparked the creation of several similar works and deserves to be duly recognized for its brilliance. In the post-modern age we live in, entrenched by both materialism and egocentrism, a second opinion about our world and ourselves could prove beneficial to us – even if it comes in the form of an arrogant demon’s private mail.