“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts” – In the unique satire The Screwtape Letters, author C.S. Lewis exhibits the slippery slope of our everyday seemingly meaningless sins and just how easy it is for us human beings to fall into the alluring temptations offered by the Devil. However, Lewis shows this in a rather unusual method; the portrayal of human life and its traps and barriers is shown from the vantage point of Screwtape, a right-hand assistant to the Devil himself. As he mentors a trainee demon, Wormwood, through a series of letters, we can distinguish the tempting seductions of the Devil from the righteous path to God.
Through these exchanges of letters, Screwtape attempts to guide Wormwood to capture the damnation of an innocent, ordinary man. Using his expertise in corrupting human beings, Screwtape teaches lessons in order to bring the victim further away from “the Enemy.” Such lessons of temptation reflect certain aspects that we as the readers may not have perceived to be following the path towards Hell. One such aspect is our inclinations to constantly think about what will happen to us. In my life, I tend to incessantly worry on the “what if’s” of life – what if I don’t get accepted to blank college, or what if the Harry Potter movie is really bad (which it wasn’t…it was epically awesome). However, what God truly wants his sons and daughters to do is to “accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to him – the present anxiety and suspense” (25). Instead of living in constant fear and anxiety, mankind must avoid the resignation to the “dozen different and hypothetical fates” (26). In essence, we must be aware of our day-to-day actions and evaluate on whether or not we are actually falling towards evil temptations.
Furthermore, we cannot merely attend mass each week and pray before we eat. It is not enough to just externally keep “the habits of a Christian;” it is not sufficient to carry on with a “spiritual state that is much the same as it was six weeks ago” (58). Oftentimes, I, like most of society, fall into a rut of going to church every Sunday and praying before I eat or sleep. It is not so much because I feel empowered or spiritually high every day or week, but it is more so because my faith has become a routine. These letters have elicited the dangerous position that I am in, and have called to attention the dire need for me to get back on track.
The world we live in is a devious place. Temptation and violence run amok as we Catholics attempt to execute God’s will through prayer and good works. But the truth is we fall for these temptations without even knowing it. All God wants for us is “to restore a new kind of self-love – a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own” (71). The Devil’s evil doing can be found at any place and any time; we must be on the lookout and truly follow God’s way with an undying passion.