Who Wrote The Screwtape Letters? - About CS Lewis

Instructor: Ian Matthews

Ian teaches college writing and has a Master's in Writing and Publishing

In this lesson, you'll learn about the life, education, and faith of C.S. Lewis. Explore the role his faith played in his writing, and how his experience in war influenced him as he wrote ''The Screwtape Letters''.

Who was C.S. Lewis?

You might know him as the author of popular fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, but even before he created Aslan and Mr. Tumnus, C.S. Lewis was a fellow at Oxford University and a successful author. Originally published in weekly serial form in The Guardian newspaper, The Screwtape Letters was among Lewis' first published works under his own name, rather than his pseudonym Clive Hamilton. The Screwtape Letters is an epistolary novel, written as a series of letters from Screwtape, a demon bureaucrat, to his nephew Wormwood. The letters guide Wormwood through the temptation of his 'patient,' a newly converted Christian living in London during the German air raids of World War II. Let's take a look at how Lewis' life and surroundings led him to write The Screwtape Letters.

Losing and Finding His Faith Again

Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1898. When he was nine years old, his mother died of cancer. Soon after, he left his childhood Christian faith behind. He became a staunch atheist during his time at University College in Oxford. He studied there from April to September 1917, when he joined the British army. He fought in World War I and was wounded in April 1918, at the Battle of Arras. He was discharged in December of that year.

Lewis was chosen as a Fellow at Magdalen College in Oxford, where he tutored English Language and Literature, in 1925. He also met and became friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, during this time.

In 1929, Lewis' father died, and he took his first steps back toward faith, becoming a theist. Two years later, after a conversation about faith with Tolkien, Lewis became a Christian. Coming to faith as an adult really influenced Lewis' thoughts about God, religion, and temptation, and he expressed these ideas in writing books like The Screwtape Letters.

The Inklings

Lewis and Tolkien formed the core of a writing group called The Inklings. Starting a couple of years before the publication of The Screwtape Letters in 1942, Lewis, Tolkien, and several other writers gathered each week at a pub in Oxford, The Eagle and Child, to eat, drink, and share their writing with each other. The early drafts of The Lord of the Rings took shape at Inklings meetings, and Lewis shared his first full-length novel Out of the Silent Planet at some of the first meetings.

World War II

Lewis was 40 years old when World War II broke out, and he actually tried to rejoin the Army to train recruits. His request was rejected, but he did take several refugee children in at his home, The Kilns. This idea shows up in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the war itself sets the background for Screwtape. Lewis also gave a series of BBC Radio lectures to encourage the British people and explore several religious concepts.

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