The Screwtape Letters Part 3

While I have loved going back through my highlights for The Screwtape Letters, I want to wrap up this series with just a few more thoughts. I will be reading Surprised By Joy in January and February and am anxious to switch mental gears and focus on this book.

I am constantly amazed at how contemporary Lewis’ writing seem. If it were not for the few mentions of the war taking place (World War 2), it would be difficult to “date” this work.

Letter 20 finds Screwtape discussing the patient’s chastity. I had to chuckle when I read this letter, because it sounds like it could have been written recently in response to all the uproar concerning Photoshopping of women’s bodies.

“It is the business of these great masters to produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called ‘sexual taste.’ This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.”

“We have engineered a great increase in the license which society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach. It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be.”

“As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist – making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast!”

This letter, in my opinion, could have be written to address the unrealistic image that women have to compete with thanks to Photoshop, and all the damage that is done. Damage done to women and their self-image and their expectations of themselves. Damage done to men who are bombarded with images of what men should be find desirable, but that are not realistic and often serve to lead men away from potential mates that could actually be suitable and complementary.

Letter 21 follows up on the assault on man’s chastity by suggesting fostering attacks on man’s sense of self-ownership. These claims on his life can lead to a sense of injury and result in man feeling ill-tempered.

“They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own.’ Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours.”

“The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell and we must keep them doing so. Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men’s belief that they ‘own’ their bodies – those vast and perilous estates, pulsating with the energy that made the worlds, in which they find themselves without their consent and from which they are ejected at the pleasure of Another!”

“We teach them not to notice the different senses of the possessive pronoun – the finely graded difference that run from ‘my boots’ through ‘my dog,’ ‘my servant,’ ‘my wife,’ ‘my father,’ ‘my master,’ and ‘my God.’ They can be taught to reduce all these senses to that of ‘my boots,’ the ‘my’ of ownership.”

“And all the time the joke is that the word ‘Mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything. In the long run either Our Father or the Enemy will say ‘Mine’ of each thing that exists, and specially of each man. They will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong – certainly not to them, whatever happens. At present the Enemy says ‘Mine’ of everything on the pedantic, legalistic ground that He made it: Our Father hopes in the end to say ‘Mine’ of all things on the more realistic and dynamic ground of conquest.”

This was a powerful letter. This ‘Mine’ mentality is epidemic at this point, in my opinion. We really do take injury to so many things and it sours everything around us. My time, my opinion, my feelings, my body, my right. We take this ‘mine’ thinking so far to want to claim things that cannot be claimed, or not in the sense we think.

I could go through and comment on some much more – The Screwtape Letters are just so rich in content. I do want to wrap up for now and move into Surprised By Joy, but I will reread later this year and comment on some of the other letters I didn’t get to this round. I hope you will continue to follow my progress through several of the works of C.S. Lewis.

2016 Reading List

As promised, here is my complete reading plan for 2016. I have it planned out by month to go along with book club reading schedules as well as to distribute the reading throughout the year. In addition, I have two year-long reading topics. I look forward to sharing reading updates and reviews throughout the year here.

Year-long Reading Topics:

  1. The Great Ideas. Each month I am reading one chapter of The Great Ideas (the Syntopicon from The Great Books of the Western World). This monthly reading includes the introduction to each topic, as well as several of the selected reading passages.
  2. Plutarch’s Lives: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. I will be working through the complete lives, along with the comparison essays over the course of the year.
January 2016
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Abigail Adams: A Life by Woody Holton
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Charlotte Mason Volume 6: Philosophy of Education
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Keeping a Nature Journal by  Charles E. Roth and Clare Walker Leslie
February 2016
The Song of Roland by Dorothy Sayers
The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
Feardom by Connor Boyack
A Guide to Teaching Elementary Science by Yvette F. Greenspan
March 2016
The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’Amour
the Liberal Arts Tradition by Ravi Jain and Kevin Clark
Democracy in America by Alexis De Tocqueville
10 Habits of Happy Mothers by Meg Meeker
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur
April 2016
Beowulf by JRR Tolkien
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
May 2016
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
The Princess and Curdie George MacDonald
Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe
The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
June 2016
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis 
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonheifer
July 2016
A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante
Consider This by Karen Glass
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
August 2016
Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
Native Son by Richard Wright
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
September 2016
Learning All the Time by John Holt
For the Love of Learning: Giving Your Children a Lolipop Education by Amy Edwards
Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
The Best Short Stories of O. Henry
October 2016
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
November 2016
Letters from a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
Father Brown by GK Chesterton
The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fennimore Cooper
December 2016
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Dubliners by James Joyce