The Screwtape Letters Chapter 9: 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.

As promised in the previous letter, Screwtape's ninth letter to his nephew in 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis, shows Wormwood how to exploit his patient's low point in his faith.


Wormwood's patient is going through a low point in his religion, as is expected from time to time through the law of Undulation. Typically, this rough patch works in the Enemy's favor by teaching the Christian to think for himself, avoid temptation, and rejoin the Enemy's camp in a more fervent manner. However, in chapter nine of The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape teaches Wormwood that there are ways for tempters to take advantage of a religious drought.

The Screwtape Letters
Book Cover


While all pleasure is ultimately created by the Enemy, He has developed rules for the times, places, and degrees to which people can enjoy these desires in a healthy way. When a patient is at a high point, he has more energy to enjoy the pleasures, but also has more resistance to the perversions of them. By encouraging the patient into unhealthy over-indulgences in sex, alcohol, and other inclinations of the physical world during the low points, he will begin to crave the least natural and least pleasurable forms of gratification. 'Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground.'


'But there is an even better way of exploiting the Trough; I mean through the patient's own thoughts about it.' At the beginning of the conversion, the new Christian is likely to think that his degree of satisfaction will be permanent. Letting him believe this will also make him think that when he drops into a period of low satisfaction it will last forever. If he is an optimist, convincing him that he is not at a low point, but has learned to balance his faith, will keep him in the valley. 'A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all--and more amusing.'

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