Synopsis of the Screwtape Letters
"The Screwtape Letters" is fiction. But only fiction in the sense that the characters and the dialogue sprang from the imagination of one of the greatest modern Christian writers. Yet in our terrestrial reality the issues confronted in this book play out in our lives every day.
The book contains thirty-one letters from Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, who is screwtape's underling in fiendishness. Screwtape is an upper-level functionary in the complex bureaucracy of the underworld. The "Screwtape Letters" are friendly advice from this elder statesman to a front-line tempter on how to procure the soul of his "patient", a young Christian man just trying to live out his everyday life.
We get the letters only from one side of the correspondence (Screwtape's), yet the story of the meanderings of the Christian "patient's" soul is clearly read between the lines. The letters begin with Wormwood's failure to keep his subject from becoming a Christian. The urbane Screwtape informs him that, although this is an alarming development, his patient is by no means lost to the dark forces of evil.
World War II serves as the backdrop for the Letters. Yet war and strife do not play a significant roll in the work. The book is about more everyday and universal problems. Problems every individual must deal with even today.
Thus, each letter addresses various aspects of the travails of the human soul and how the devil tempts that soul away from goodness and toward evil - not evil on a grand scale, but evil on a petty scale. They show how evil can seep into a Christian's relationships with friends and family, in his views on the church, even in his practice of prayer.
As each letter unfolds, we find the Christian "patient" slipping more and more out of the hands of Wormwood and his temptations. Screwtape's advice to the tempter becomes more firm and yet more subtle. And, by degrees, we come to see the workings of evil in our own hearts. "The Screwtape Letters" is a book that entertains while it instructs. It is a book to be treasured and studied.
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