The Screwtape Letters Chapter 8: 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 eight of the C.S. Lewis novel, 'The Screwtape Letters', Screwtape teaches his nephew, Wormwood, about the peaks and valleys of the of the human religious experience.

Peaks and Pits

In chapter eight of the C.S. Lewis novel, The Screwtape Letters, Wormwood (novice tempter for Hell) is proud that his patient is going through a dry spell in his walk with the Enemy. Disappointed that the Training College is not up to par, Screwtape (expert tempter and Wormwood's uncle) explains the law of Undulation.

Undulation is rising and falling in waves. Whether it is in a love interest, a hobby, or religion, people go through times that they approach their interest with enthusiasm (the peak of the wave) and times that they do not (the valley of the wave). In this chapter, we will learn the Enemy's purpose in allowing the valleys and the tempter's role in taking advantage of low points.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Book Cover


How is an amphibian like a person? An amphibian is an animal that can live on both land and water. Screwtape compares mortals to amphibians because they live in both a physical and a spiritual realm. While the eternal world is constant, the physical world is constantlt changing.

He says, 'The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.' Why doesn't God override the will of man?


Why fight over souls? While both the Enemy and Satan want possession of the souls of men, each side wants different things from those souls. The Enemy wants patients to choose to be virtuous and to follow Him, but to retain their individualism. The tempter's job is to absorb men into the will of Satan. Because of the Enemy's desire to allow the subjects autonomy, He has to entice them, rather than force them to choose goodness.

Enemy Plans

God will do a little pushing and prodding with new Christians, but his ultimate goal is to give men enough independence to want to choose a virtuous life. Even when they mess up, the desire of a human to do God's will is pleasing to Him.

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