The Screwtape Letters Chapter 28: 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-eight of 'The Screwtape Letters', Uncle Screwtape revises one of his original statements and explains the view of death from the spiritual perspective.

War Reports

In a previous letter that Uncle Screwtape (a senior tempter) had written to his nephew, Wormwood, (an apprentice tempter), Screwtape told Wormwood that he did not want to hear anything else about the war in Europe. As usual, Wormwood did not apply common sense to that statement, therefore in chapter twenty-eight of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape will redefine his position to avoid any further misunderstandings.

The Screwtape Letters
Book Cover

Wormwood Confuses the Mission

While Uncle Screwtape still does not want to hear anything about death and destruction that does not affect his patient, he does want to know if the war has an immediate impact on Wormwood's mission. It is as if Wormwood has forgotten that his goal is not to enjoy his patient's distress, but to eternally win his soul. Screwtape is mortified at how happy Wormwood seems to be that there are going to be bombs dropped in the town where the patient lives. 'Do you not know that bombs kill men?' Screwtape says. 'Or do you not realize that the patient's death, at this moment, is precisely what we want to avoid?'

Propaganda About Death

Up to this point, the patient has evaded all of Wormwood's attacks. The man's dependence on the Enemy has grown as he spends his time thinking about his girlfriend and how to help those around him in lieu of worldly things. If he died tonight, the Enemy will get his soul.

Wondering if Wormwood is concerned that he should wish for him to live, just like the humans who tend to think that death is bad and survival is good, Screwtape reminds him that this is merely propaganda created by the Underworld. Propaganda is the intentional spreading of rumors to help an organization. 'If he dies now, you lose him,' Screwtape writes. 'If he survives the war, there is always hope.'

Souls Need Time to be Tempted

Mid-life is a good time for the Underworld to gather souls. Either the patient has been successful enough to feel tied to worldly things, or is worn down enough by life to have lost his resistance. Screwtape writes, 'The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them,...all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.'

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