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Summary of Key Events in Various Letters of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis


The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis is a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood. Key events include Screwtape advising Wormwood on how to tempt a human, the human's conversion to Christianity, and Screwtape's frustration with Wormwood's failures. The letters explore themes of temptation, human nature, and spiritual warfare.

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What occurs in letters 13, 14, and 15 of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis?

In letter 13, Screwtape reprimands Wormwood for allowing his patient to repent and enjoy simple pleasures, such as reading a book or taking a walk for enjoyment. If the patient continues on this path, he will realize that simple pleasures are far better than the hollow pleasures of the world. 

In letter 14 something alarming is happening. Screwtape says that Wormwood's subject is growing in humility, which is a key Christian virtue. In light of this, Screwtape urges Wormwood to get his patient to focus on his humility, so that he will be proud of his humility (paradoxically, I know). False humility is no humility at all. 

Letter 15 is the most insightful. In this letter, there is a lull in the war. So, Screwtape urges Wormwood to make people think of the future. Screwtape argues, paradoxically, that the future is the least like eternity. The future is the place for fears and lusts. In this way, people cannot focus on the present and do what is best. Here is an excerpt:

Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead. Do not think lust an exception. When the present pleasure arrives, the sin (which alone interests us) is already over. The pleasure is just the part of the process which we regret and would exclude if we could do so without losing the sin; it is the part contributed by the Enemy, and therefore experienced in a Present. The sin, which is our contribution, looked forward.

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What events occur in chapters 25 and 26 of Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis?

In letter 25, Screwtape hits upon an aspect of humanity: the desire for change or novelty. Wormwood must encourage this desire for change in his patient, because it is this desire for novelty that causes heresies, marital unfaithfulness, breaking up of friendships, and so much more. To put it another way, this desire for change cuts the legs of faithfulness, so that it cannot stand. Here are Screwtape's own words:

The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively.

The irony here is that Screwtape also acknowledges that the enemy (God) has created rhythms. So, Wormwood must not allow these rhythms to be experienced, which only happens by steadfastness.

In letter 26, Screwtape urges Wormwood to do two things. First, he must sow seeds of discontent while the couple is still courting each other. While there is erotic attraction, the couple will sacrifice for each other, but the time will come when this feeling will pass. If seeds of selfishness can be sown now, they will cause many problems later.  The subtle way this can be done is by allowing both people to believe that they are being selfless, when in fact they are acting for their own gain. Bitterness will be the result.

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