The Screwtape Letters Chapter 20: 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 twenty of 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape continues his lesson on sexuality and marriage. We will learn how unrealistic expectations are used to entice Man.


In chapter twenty of 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis, Wormwood has gone too far pushing his client towards promiscuity. Now that the Enemy has stepped in, the patient has become aware that all cravings will go away on their own eventually.

A more experienced tempter would back off before it got to that point. The only way Wormwood will now be able to use the man's sexuality against him is with his choice of a marriage partner. In this lesson, we will see how a tempter lures his patient into finding the right spouse.

The Screwtape Letters
Book Cover

Body Type

The Lowerarchy of the Underworld takes on the task of directing sexual tastes to the masses. Lowerarchy is not an actual word, but a play on the word 'hierarchy' to describe the leaders of the Underworld. Through the use of the media and the fashion industry, Screwtape writes, 'the aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.'

For example, most women prefer men without beards. In regard to men's tastes, the Lowerarchy has varied the ideal from refined to overly girlish, both of which are accompanied by a lack of honesty as to the female's genuine character. At this time, the ideal type is women who look like boys. There are so many advantages to this type, including a woman's hesitancy to bear children and fear of getting older as this body type is not sustainable.


In addition to idealizing a body type that is only possible for a small window in a woman's life, women's bodies are inaccurately depicted in art. Screwtapes says, 'It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be.' The result is that men want something that does not exist, but for which he never stops searching.

Imaginary Women

'You will find, ' Screwtape writes, 'if you look carefully into any human's heart, that he is haunted by at least two imaginary women - a terrestrial and an infernal Venus, and that his desire differs qualitatively according to its object' Venus is the Roman goddess of beauty. The terrestrial woman has a natural, spiritual beauty that works within the Enemy's plan. The Underworld hates that, but can sometimes use it to entice a patient into coveting another man's wife.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account