The Screwtape Letters Chapter 17: 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 seventeen of 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis, Uncle Screwtape tackles the rarely discussed issue of gluttony in tempting the human soul.

Gluttony

In the seventeenth chapter of the C.S. Lewis novel, The Screwtape Letters, Uncle Screwtape clears up the misconceptions his young nephew, Wormwood, has about the use of gluttony to tempt his patient.

Gluttony is a greedy overindulgence in food or drink. Many mistake this to mean large quantities of food, but that is only part of gluttony. The gluttony of delicacy should also be considered. Delicacy is food that is pleasing and considered rare or luxurious. In this lesson, we will learn more about the gluttony of delicacy.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Book Cover

Delicacy

Screwtape uses the patient's mother as an example of a person who is enslaved to the gluttony of delicacy. While it would never occur to her that she is a glutton because she only indulges in small quantities, 'her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others' makes her a glutton Screwtape writes.

A nightmare to hosts and waiters, she is never satisfied with any food that is presented before her, whether it is too much, overcooked, or improperly spiced. Imagining that she remembers it done better in the past, she does not realize that the difference is that she was easier to please in the past.

Vanity

With men the technique is a little different. 'Males are best turned into gluttons with the help of their vanity,' Screwtape says. Wormwood should make his patient proud to be able to recognize the best food, wine, or cigars. Without knowing it, food will become a much more important part of his life than he realized. Once the patient has been established as the glutton, the goal is to keep the Enemy from reminding the patient that perhaps food has taken too much of a role in the patient's life by letting him believe his preoccupation is for the benefit of other people.

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