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Written by jelo singson
Screwtape is a senior demon who serves as the unconventional main character in the novel. The story is told from his point of view and the novel is presented in a unique format: it is given as a series of letters he sends to his nephew and protégé, Wormwood, as he instructs him in the finer points of corruption. Screwtape is an experienced and extremely competent manipulator. His subtle machinations are at the core of the corruption of an untold number of human souls. He liberally dispenses advice on the most effective ways to corrupt the modern man. Screwtape struggles to understand God’s love for humanity as he is fully given to the “doctrine of realism” which states that humanity’s only goal in life is to compete for power and material resources.
The nephew and apprentice of the titular Screwtape; he is never actually heard from in the novel. All of Wormwood’s involvements and failures in trying to pervert The Patient’s soul are told completely via his Uncle Screwtape’s narrations. Wormwood largely functions as a plot device and mouthpiece for the author to articulate his own beliefs. Later on in the novel though he revealed to be quite a self-serving, traitorous schemer himself as he attempts to implicate his Uncle of espousing heretical beliefs about love in order to get him in trouble with the infernal bureaucracy. Wormwood’s failure to corrupt The Patient and his eventual demise at the hands of his uncle ends the novel.
The nameless subject of demonic attempts at debasing the human soul is referred to simply as “The Patient.” His ethical progress--or lack of progress in some cases--comprises much of the novel’s plot. He is deliberately kept nondescript but is generally described as a young and genuinely unsure of himself. The Patient functions as an Everyman character to make him relatable to as many readers as possible. Similar to Wormwood The Patient functions as a plot device and platform for C.S. Lewis to present and fashion treatises on Christianity. He is killed during an air raid, as the novel is set during the Second World War, and is revealed to have gone up to heaven.
The Patient’s Mother
The Patient’s Mother--much like The Patient--is an Everyman character and was written as a personification of English mothers of that era. She is often critical of The Patient and they argue frequently as a result. Despite this though she loves her son dearly. She is also critical about her food, a fact that Glubose, the demon assigned to corrupt her is able to use to his advantage.
The Married Couple
The Patient early on in the novel is befriends The Married Couple then leaves them later on when he meets his Lover. They are make no attempts to conceal their atheism and they cause The Patient to question his faith by their vocal and cynical critiques on Christianity and the church. Despite these traits The Patient genuinely enjoys the company of The Married Couple and as such The Patient ends up living a hypocritical existence where he secretly espouses Christian beliefs but engages in disparaging discussions regarding Christians and Christianity when in the presence of The Married Couple.
God is constantly referred to as “The Enemy” as The Screwtape Letters is told from the perspective of demons. Despite this label however God remains the primary motivator of most of Screwtape’s ethical conjectures---such as his pondering of the nature of God’s love for humanity and humanity’s free will. Eventually, Screwtape resentfully recognizes that God indeed truly loves humanity. This notion gets him into trouble because demons consider this belief “heretical.” Wormwood uses this realization to improve his station in the demonic hierarchy by reporting his uncle secretly to the authorities. Screwtape eventually decides that God’s love for man is a complete mystery and that this love is part of some grand scheme failing to understand that there is no plan and God loves mankind in spite of his many failing because it is His nature and because He can.
Satan is mentioned less frequently than God and when he is he is portrayed as a covetous, hateful oppressor who cannot understand God’s love for humanity much like the rest of the denizens of Hell. He resorts to subterfuge and enticement to distort and ruin humanity. He is rarely featured in The Screwtape Letter and he is often referred to as “Our Father” as an analogue to how God is called by humanity. It is revealed in the novel that Satan was God’s faithful servant until God creation of mankind, prompting an intense jealousy. Satan then leads a failed rebellion against God that ends in his fall from grace and confinement to Hell.
The Patient’s Lover
The Patient’s Lover is crucial in leading The Patient towards God and away from temptation and sin. She is positive influence on The Patient and helps in shaping his beliefs about God. She is portrayed as upright and steadfast in her Christianity. The Patient's Lover is also described as beautiful. Despite all these positive traits she is still possesses a critical character defect: she has a tendency to be self-righteous, belittling atheists and other religions because was raised in a highly educated Christian family.
The demon assigned to tempt The Patient’s Mother. He is able to exploit the mother’s natural fussiness with regard to food using it as a catalyst for arguments.
A demon colleague of Screwtape. He is an opportunist who views the war as wonderful opportunity to corrupt the human race, knowing that conflict can be used to bring out the very worst within humanity.
Another demonic colleague of Wormwood; very little is mentioned of him in the novel.
The "headmaster" of the Training College for demons. Screwtape dislikes him for reasons unclearly stated.
A demon who serves as Screwtape’s scribe. Toadpipe occasionally transcribes dictations for him.
A demon tasked with perverting The Patient’s Lover. He often tries to use her tendency towards self-righteousness and arrogance as a catalyst for sin.
The author of The Screwtape Letters. He is briefly mentioned in his own book; an early example of breaking the fourth wall. He is cited on two occasions: first to assert that he has obtained Screwtape’s letters but declines to divulge how they came into his possession. Second and final mention is to make a comment regarding a change in Screwtape’s handwriting.
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Screwtape knows that the nature and desires of humanity often supercede what they believe to be right and wrong. Emotional and physical desire, thus, works in his (their) favor because humanity often follows their base instincts rather than their...