The Screwtape Letters Chapter 5: 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 five of the C.S. Lewis novel, 'The Screwtape Letters', Wormwood is overenthusiastic about the war in Europe. Will a war hurt or help his cause?


At this point in the story, Uncle Screwtape, the senior tempter, is mentoring his nephew, Wormwood, a novice tempter, on how to influence his patient into turning away from God and towards a life of sin.

In the fifth chapter of C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, Wormwood is celebrating a war in Europe. Uncle Screwtape understands his joy over watching all of the pain that war brings, but warns him that a lot of patients are lost to the Enemy during wars. What is the best way to make sure a human does not turn to God during war?

The Screwtape Letters
Book Cover


Sometimes, even tempters are distracted from their end goal. Wormwood needs to put all of his attention into pulling his patient away from the Enemy (God). Naturally, a young tempter like Wormwood delights in human suffering and terror that is brought on with war. 'Of course a war is entertaining,' says Screwtape, but Wormwood needs to be cautious.

As enjoyable as his patient's anguish might be, causing temporary suffering may not help Wormwood accomplish his long-term goal. In actuality, something like this could go either way depending on how Wormwood handles it. Why might war send people into the Enemy's camp?

The Problem with War

Despite the misery that war brings, Wormwood cannot rely on the war's help. When patients know they are about to die, they prepare for it by turning to God. Even more patients begin to look outside themselves and throw themselves into a cause greater than themselves. Sometimes, even if the Enemy disapproves of the cause, He retains the patient based on the knowledge that the human felt he was doing the right thing. People behave differently when they feel their own mortality. Screwtape says, 'In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever.'

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