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The Screwtape Letters is a work of Christian satire by C. S. Lewis first published in book form in 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of an earthly man, known only as "the Patient."
Screwtape (along with his trusted scribe Toadpipe) holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy ("Lowerarchy") of Hell, and acts more as a mentor than a supervisor to Wormwood, the inexperienced tempter; almost every letter ends with the signature, "Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape." In the body of the thirty-one letters which make up the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in his Patient, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine.
In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis provides a series of lessons in the importance of taking a deliberate role in living out Christian faith by portraying a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, as seen from the demon/devil's viewpoint. Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it. A preface included in some older publishings of the book included a short dialog on the subject of whether Lewis believed demons to be fact or fiction, exemplifying Lewis' belief that despite the fictional storyline of the book, he believed Satan and demons are not fictional; further, that he held a view that they exist for a decidedly evil purpose which must not be portrayed innocuously in art and culture at the risk of obfuscating their true nature.
Versions of the letters were originally published in The Guardian, and the standard edition contains an introduction explaining how the author chose to write his story.
While The Screwtape Letters is one of Lewis' most popular works, Lewis claimed that the book was distasteful to write, and he vowed never to write a direct sequel. However, in 1959 he wrote an addendum, Screwtape Proposes a Toast, which takes the form not of a letter but rather an after-dinner speech given by Screwtape at the Tempters' Training College for young demons. It first appeared as an article in the Saturday Evening Post. The Screwtape Letters, along with Screwtape Proposes a Toast, has also been released on both audiocassette and CD narrated by John Cleese of Monty Python and Joss Ackland.
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