Screwtape is a Devilish Remix of Proverbs
Not long ago, I wrote a post about how a passionate speech by Hitler and boring Sunday sermon inspired C.S. Lewis’s demons. In writing the manuscript for the first episode for my podcast Mere Caffeination, I threw in a comment I hadn’t thought much about before. I compared C.S. Lewis’s diabolical Screwtape Letters to the book of Proverbs. I think that’s worth a little more reflection.
Both books, Screwtape and Proverbs, are made up of thirty-one units. Screwtape is a collection of thirty-one letters. Proverbs consists of thirty-one chapters.
Both books are about advice for moving a young man towards a desired end. Proverbs begins with a father’s advice to his son about living a life of wisdom. Screwtape begins with advice from a senior demon to a junior demon about how to best drag a young man to Hell.
Both books are romantic. In Proverbs, the young man, having successfully navigated life’s temptations, rises up with his children in praise of his virtuous wife (Proverbs 31). Similarly, the young man in Screwtape, called the patient, pursues courtship with a Christian woman. Screwtape notes how their attacks at the young man’s chastity have proved unsuccessful.
Both books are all about temptation. I wonder just how much the structure of Proverbs might have influenced Lewis’s framework for the Screwtape Letters. Both Solomon and C.S. Lewis would have us know the real dangers of daily temptations and the real glories of obeying God. Let the reader beware. As Lewis writes, “The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”