The Screwtape Letters Chapter 19: 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 nineteen of 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape does a bit of back-pedaling. Did he cross the line in some of his previous letters?


In the nineteenth chapter of 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape appears alarmed at the questions Wormwood proposed to him that could lead one to think that Screwtape has fallen into heresy.

Heresy is an opinion in opposition of established doctrine. Out of concern that Wormwood may have shown his letters to someone, Screwtape makes a point that anything he may have said about other tempters was in jest. He also promises to protect Wormwood from the authorities if the need arises, despite repeatedly saying that he would not, proving the point that was made in the preface that the devil is a liar.

The Screwtape Letters
Book Cover


Wormwood is confused. Screwtape's suggestion that the Enemy's philosophy about love is impossible contradicts Screwtape's statements that 'He really loves the human vermin and really desires their freedom and continued existence.' Screwtape clarifies that since people are separate beings and all beings are selfish at heart, and that 'He must have some real motive for creating them and taking so much trouble about them.'


Screwtape continues with this topic, 'We know that He cannot really love: nobody can: it doesn't make sense.' Satan's quarrel with God was because Satan could not understand what the motive was and God's only response was 'I wish with all my heart that you did.' Despite the rumors that God threw him out of Heaven, it was Satan that wanted to get as far away as possible. Screwtape believes that the key to the Enemy's throne is understanding the secret. Much time, energy, and research has gone into finding out what the secret is, but so far, no one has been successful.


Screwtape's response to Wormwood's question about whether or not love is a good thing is that it depends on the situation. The goal is not related to love, it is about moving the patient further away from the Enemy.

  • If it induces tragic, dramatic romances, Wormwood should let the patient believe in love.
  • If his disgust for the body feeds his gluttony of delicacy, it is best to keep him chaste.
  • If there is someone he could marry that would make living a Christian life difficult for him, a good tempter should convince him to marry her.

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