Screwtape Proposes a Toast
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The World's Last Night and Other Essays

"Screwtape Proposes a Toast"

Between May and November 1941, Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters in serialized form for The Guardian.  In the letters, a senior devil, Screwtape, gives advice to a junior devil, Wormwood, on the best ways to tempt his assigned human being, referred to as "the patient."  Lewis reprised Screwtape's view from below in this 1959 piece written for The Saturday Evening Post.  The topic this time is the educational system. 

If you are unfamiliar with Screwtape, please note that Lewis uses what he termed "diabolical ventriloquism."  You need to mentally invert Screwtape's statements.  For instance, "the Enemy" refers to God and what Screwtape sees as beneficial, Christians would consider harmful. 

1.  The devils dine on human souls.  Although quantity is in abundance, the quality of the fare is not what it once was.  Why have the great sinners become rare?  What about the great saints?  How does Screwtape plan to capitalize on this?

2.  Describe the process by which an individual choice becomes a principle.  How does this lead the creation to reject Grace? 

3.  How do you define "democracy"?  How does Screwtape suggest the young Tempters use "democracy"? 

4.  Do you agree/disagree with Lewis's proposition that those who claim equality actually feel themselves to be inferior? 

5.  What may happen to those who fear being "undemocratic"? 

6.  Using the analogy of Greek dictators and a field of grain, what similarity does Lewis draw between tyranny and "democracy"?

7.  According to Screwtape, what is the basic principle of the new education?  Has it come to pass in American public education?  Are there advantages to "parity of esteem" that Lewis fails to acknowledge?

8.  What effect does the "I'm as good as you" philosophy have on the middle class?

9.  How might encouraging "‘democracy' in the diabolical sense" destroy democracies in the political sense?

10.  What deeper, destructive value does Screwtape see in the "I'm as good as you" philosophy?

11.  What aspects of religion and vintage Pharisee wine please Screwtape?


Farinata (d. 1264):  aristocrat and leader of an anti-papal faction in Florence, Italy.  He is mentioned in Dante's Inferno as part of the circle of heretics.

Valeria Messalina (17-48 CE):  Roman Empress and third wife of Claudius.  Said to be promiscuous and possessing an insatiable sexual appetite.  She saw sex as a means of exercising power.

Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798):  Venetian adventurer and author known for his seductive powers, particularly among the upper classes of European society.

Limbo:  in Roman Catholic theology, the place for unbaptized children and others who die without grievous personal sin, yet are precluded from heaven on account of original sin. 

Cerberus:  in Greek mythology, a three-headed dog that was the hound of Hades

cipher:  a person or thing without worth or value; nonentity

Christian Socialism:  a group of Christians, organized in London in 1848 by Frederick Denison Maurice, who believed that politics and religion were inseparable and that the church should be involved in solving societal problems.  They sought to prevent revolution by addressing the grievances of the working class.

© 2008 by Allyson Wieland