The Screwtape Letters Chapter 14: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In Chapter 14 of 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis, Wormwood's patient is moving in the wrong direction. Is there any hope for Wormwood to turn this around?

Humility

Things are looking hopeless for Wormwood right now. The patient is not behaving the same way he did when he originally converted. This time it seems sincere. He is no longer making promises for a lifetime of purity; he is humbly asking for help to make it through each day. Unless Wormwood can intervene with this newly acquired virtue, the patient's humility will keep him in the Enemy's camp. Humility is the quality of realizing you are not better than other people.

The patient humbly asks for help.
God over Satan

Pride

The best way for Wormwood to interrupt the patient's virtuosity is to make him aware of it. Just at the moment when he is feeling particularly humble, Wormwood will remind him how humble he is, thus introducing pride. Pride is pleasure at one's own achievements. When the patient realizes what he is doing and tries to stop, Wormwood needs to make him proud of his desire to stop. 'Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, 'By jove! I'm being humble', and almost immediately pride - pride at his own humility - will appear.' This can go through several levels, but not for too long before the patient sees the humor in the situation and finds something else to do.

Self-Esteem

Another way to attack the patient's humility is to make him think that the goal is for him to have a low opinion of himself. Wormwood should make the patient think that he is less talented than he thought he was. 'No doubt they (his talents) are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point.' This approach adds an element of deceitfulness into the situation, such as 'pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools.' Since the patient will be unsuccessful trying to convince himself that he is less than he is, the result will be a cycle where he is continuing to focus on himself.

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