The Screwtape Letters Chapter 6: 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 six of 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape teaches his nephew, Wormwood, to keep his patient worried and anxious to create a barrier between the Enemy and the patient.


In the sixth chapter of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape, the senior tempter in the Underworld, teaches his nephew how to use the patient's emotions to confuse him and barricade him from the truth. If properly manipulated, anxiety, fear, and hatred can be useful tools for the tempters to occupy the patient's thoughts and keep him from turning to God.

The Screwtape Letters
Book Cover


The patient is worried about what role he will play in the war. Screwtape is happy to hear that the patient is in a state of flux. The lack of stability that comes with the unknown creates the perfect opportunity for a tempter to keep his patient worried about what might happen to him.

The patient must never realize that his trial is the fear itself rather than the thing he fears. The Enemy typically does not become involved with the multitude of imagined scenarios that the patient creates for himself, which makes it much easier for the tempter to pounce. The task is to keep the patient so occupied with himself and his own worries that he is unable to concentrate his attention on reality.


Repeatedly, Screwtape has shown Wormwood how keeping the patient focused on himself prevents the patient from becoming virtuous. Once again, encouraging the ego is Wormwood's most useful weapon. Instead of thinking about God, the patient should think about his own thoughts about God. Screwtape clarifies that there exist some specific times in which having the patient focus outside himself can be useful:

''One can therefore formulate the general rule; in all activities of mind which favour our cause, encourage the patient to be un-selfconscious and to concentrate on the object, but in all activities favourable to the Enemy bend his mind back on itself.''

An example of a good time for a patient to focus outside himself would be when lusting after a woman, but when thinking about something honorable the patient has done, he should concentrate on himself.

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