This is a review by Richey Riviere, one of my students.
Many people struggle with the daily grind of trying to stay faithful and be a good person, whether they are Christians or not. In one's own life it is hard to imagine the subtle ways in which the devil "comes to steal, kill, and destroy." Temptations from the devil seem like they would be sins that are clearly defined in the Bible and that pastors in local churches regularly comment on. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, however, expounds on a more thoughtful and descriptive perspective of Satan's techniques.
The Screwtape Letters is an account of the letters from senior demonic tempter Screwtape to his young, inexperienced nephew, Wormwood. In his letters, Screwtape offers advice on how to turn the man Wormwood has been assigned to away from "the enemy" (God) and to assure that the man's final resting place be reserved in the pits of hell. The Screwtape Letters forces one to examine one's own life and brings to light certain weaknesses in the human mind, whether one is a Christian or not. Most of what the book expounds on isn't even what most Christians think of when they think of someone who is on his way to hell. Screwtape makes a big deal out of the fact that big sins like murder are no worse than small sins like gambling, if they will both eventually lead that person away from God: "Indeed the safest road to hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts . . . ." Screwtape tells his nephew that he should focus on exploiting the common human weaknesses and to let the humans do the rest of the dirty work in the world. In this area, C. S. Lewis displays an extraordinary understanding of human nature and what truly drives men and women.
It is interesting to see how Screwtape concedes that God is genuine in His love for humans and that God only wants the best for them (even though Screwtape later denies acknowledging this when confronted about it by higher demonic authorities). Another interesting point in the book is when Screwtape acknowledges that all pleasure comes from God and is beneficial to a human's relationship with God, even when it is achieved through sinful and non-beneficial means, such as sexual sin. He says that while the actual act is the sin and can often drive the person further from God than the pleasure will benefit him, the pleasure is still from God, no matter what the circumstances: "Anything, even a sin, which has the total effect of moving close up to the enemy makes against us in the long run."
Lewis also points out the dangers of pretending to be someone else in order to impress others. Screwtape states, "All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be." This is a warning not to pretend to be someone who does not love God or someone who sins on a regular basis because one just might turn into this imaginary person.
All in all this is a very good book. One criticism of the book is that it might cause many high school students to have to pull out their dictionaries or read certain sections over again to understand them fully. The vocabulary and sentence structure was sometimes difficult. Still, the book is a great classic and well worth the effort it takes to read it.
- Jon Carter
- I am a high school English teacher who loves to read, and I'm passionate about finding quality books for my students to read. The reviews on this blog will reflect what I am currently reading and sometimes what my students are reading. The books that appear on the list are ones that I think would be of interest to high school students, are age appropriate in content and difficulty, and in some way tap into eternal truths. Most are classics, but some are just fun, popular books.