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Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.
~ Screwtape, signing off each of his letters.

Screwtape is the main protagonist and antagonist of C.S. Lewis's book, The Screwtape Letters. He is an elder demon and a prominent authority in Hell, the undersecretary of an unnamed department. He boasts that his career as a demon has been "one of unbroken success." He is also a parody of a high-ranking British bureaucrat, as Lewis explains, "my vision of Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state, or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern." So as demons are known to be, Screwtape is ruthless, cruel, deceptive and manipulative. But like a stereotypical bureaucrat or businessman, he is humorless, greedy, obsessed with details and concerned only with his own success.

The book consists of Screwtape writing letters to his nephew, Wormwood, a demon-in-training. He instructs his nephew on how to tempt, manipulate and torment their human "patients", to ultimately bring them to hell.

The safest road to Hell is the gradual one, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
~ Screwtape's advice on temptation.

The Screwtape Letters

The correspondence begins when the younger demon Wormwood is assigned as a tempter to a young Englishman, his first 'patient.' He writes to his uncle for advice. Screwtape obliges, instructing him to keep the young man confused and stop him from believing in God (or, as the demons refer to him, 'The Enemy.') Wormwood fails when his Patient has a spiritual awakening and starts attending church. Screwtape then instructs his nephew to keep trying to break his faith, and also try to build up his estrangement from his mother. When World War II breaks out, he warns Wormwood not to get carried away by his enjoyment of the war, but to use the Patient's anxiety to his advantage.

Wormwood shows some success when he introduces the Patient to a group of pretentious and superficial new friends who Screwtape hopes will corrupt him. Wormwood fails again when the Patient takes a walk by himself and reads a good book. Screwtape chastises his nephew for allowing his Patient any real pleasures, since they would expose the fake pleasures as a temptation.

At this point, Screwtape tries to explain the difference between God and Devil's views on humans - while the Devil and his demons see the humans as food, Screwtape tells his nephew that God actually loves the humans and wants them to come to Heaven with him. He hastily retracts this statement, knowing his nephew could report him for heresy for using the word 'love' in a letter, and covers up by saying love is impossible and must be an excuse for God's real motives.

Screwtape's next advice is to corrupt the Patient's sex life, and trap him in an unhappy marriage. This fails when the Patient meets and falls in love with an intelligent and kindhearted woman. In the next letter, it is revealed that Wormwood did, in fact, try to report his uncle for heresy, but that Screwtape managed to escape punishment. In the middle of his fury writing to his nephew, Screwtape loses control and transforms into a giant centipede.

As the war comes to England, Screwtape warns Wormwood increasingly not to let the Patient die, and keep trying to destroy his faith. Ultimately, however, the Patient dies in a bombing raid and is taken to Heaven. Wormwood, for failing to capture his soul, is to suffer the ultimate punishment - as Screwtape describes it, 'Bring us back food, or be food yourself.' Screwtape gleefully tells his nephew that he expects to have the first bite of him.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast

C.S. Lewis later wrote a short follow-up to the Letters. In this piece, Screwtape presides over a banquet for the leaders of Hell's training college and the new graduates. He admits that the human souls they feed on have no real flavor (lacking true evil), but that they have more of them than ever. He instructs the younger devils to encourage mass conformity among the humans by using 'Democracy' as a buzzword, to turn them against anyone different from them, and to encourage other humans not to rise to their full potential. In this way, since no human becomes exceptional, it is easier for the demons to control them.

Screwtape concludes the toast declaring that they can still find sustenance from corrupted religious faith, and toasts the college with a bottle of "vintage pharisee."

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