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Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

Postby Paul F. Ford » 26 Nov 2007, 00:02

CKinna wrote:Sounds great! Our group - The CS Lewis Society of Frederick (MD) - is currently half way through discussing Screwtape. If anything comes up and if I remember I will post our questions.


Please do!

Blessings,
Paul
Paul Ford—self-appointed president of the "245-3617 Club" and proud member of the "245-6317 Club"; author of the Companion to Narnia and the Pocket Companion to Narnia.
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Dedication and Preface

Postby Peepiceek » 04 Jan 2008, 15:24

Dedication: To J.R.R. Tolkien
I'm aware of a relationship between these two masters, and that Tolkien heavily criticised The Chronicles. I also believe they at some level conidered eachother friends. What can you tell us about why Lewis chose to dedicate this book to Tolkien and What it says to or about him that he did. For example is Lewis simply dedicating a book to a collegue/friend out of courtesy or is he hinting that Tolkien needs the religious advice?

Preface:
Yourself and Tuke tell me that it is part of the fiction of TSL that each of may have out own shoulder devil to contend with. Yet it is Lewis himself, in the preface, not Screwtape in the body, that warns us one of the dangers of devils is not believing they exist. Now does that mean to believe that they don't exist at all or to believe they exist but that you don't have one? I don't believe in dualism so I don't think there are enough devils for each of us to have one. I would tend to believe that the devils in TSL are largely metaphorical and that it is our own human nature that leads us into the dangers Screwtape encourages.
Please clear up the passage: "The sort of script that is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learded the knack; but ill-disposed...etc" What does Lewis mean by this? Is he talking about learning to think like a devil?
When Lewis speaks of the chronology of the letters I first thought this meant that they did not necessarily appear in the order they were written because he 'found' them that way and could not make sense of the dating. That would have added yet another level of chalenge to the book, but it turns out it only means he couldn't make out the exact dates the letters were written.
Please clear up whether the War is WWI or WWII. My confusion is that the book was finished in 1941 while WWII was still raging. The timetable seems rushed.

:addendum::
The copy I purchased at Borders (Waldenbooks) doesnt have the "Preface to the paperback edition"
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Letter 1

Postby Peepiceek » 04 Jan 2008, 15:28

What does Lewis mean by 'jargon'?
I notice that Screwtape capitalises divine pronouns and not diabolical ones.
Is it perhaps that even in Hell they are either bound by this rule or somehow still respect it or that Lewis made this 'correction' because he could not bear not to. He states in the foreward to Screwtape Proposes a Toast that thinking and writing like a devil was not pleasent to him.
I had to reread ¶3 sevaral times. Lewis writes "(You know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them)"--"At least I think that must have been His line for when I said 'Quite..." Maybe it is just how the lines fall on my copy but I found this very confusing, thinking he was referring to the earlier parenthetical use of the word 'quite' and not realising that the line was dialog; two spoken sentences under the same quotes separated obviously by a period.
"That inarticulate sense..." I wondered if this was a quote from a real person. Was Lewis having a go at somebody? A google search only turned up TSL as a source. I was hoping it was Darwin or some other science minded person.
What does Screwtape mean by 'real sciences'? Physics and Biology as opposed to the man-made sciences of sociology and economics?

What is the reading level of STL? I copy and pasted this letter and found the Flesch-Kinkaid grade level to be 6.6 but given the subject matter it must be higher than that.
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letter 3

Postby Peepiceek » 04 Jan 2008, 16:19

Unfortunately I don't have much to ask or add about letters 2 or 3. Unless you intend to define what may be new and unfamiliar words for your readers to spare them having to pick up a dictionary. If that is the case, I needed to look up 'expurgated' and 'piqued'.
My only question regarding letter 3 is: In the last sentence of the letter does the 'elder brother' refer to the story of Genesis chapter 4?
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Postby galion » 04 Jan 2008, 20:12

Expurgated: purged, censored, cleaned-up
Piqued: literally, stung (i.e.into jealousy of the new interest in her son's life).

OK?
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Postby Peepiceek » 04 Jan 2008, 21:02

speaking of expurgated and going back to an earlier discussion about a certain word in the Toast. The word is infact expunged and mising from my copy. Did HarperCollins think grammar school children would be reading this? I wonder what else they left out.

Here's the fellow who says he doesn't like hot dogs--thinks he's too good for them, no doubt. Here's a man who hasn't turned on the jukebox--he's one of those [goddam] highbrows and is doing it to show off. If they were honest-to-God all-right Joes they'd be like me. They've no business to be different. It's undemocratic.
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Letter 4

Postby Peepiceek » 05 Jan 2008, 21:57

On the necessity of kneeling for prayer, is this Screwtapes opinion or Lewis'?
The proper definition of the word 'charity' needs cleared up. In my dictionary what Lewis means by charity is actually definition 5 and 6.
5)Indulgence or forbearance in judging others. See synonyms at mercy.
6). The theological virtue defined as love directed first toward God but also toward oneself and one's neighbors as objects of God's love.


The first definition that comes to mind is that of giving your money away but that in this context would be called alms.

Does "The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him..."
mean the devils have seen God and know what He looks like and we hanev't and don't. I've heard it said from several sources though none of them authoratative that humans cannot look at God and if we did it would kill us.
Who are the 'other two Persons' Screwtape refers to?
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Letters 6-11

Postby Peepiceek » 08 Jan 2008, 11:58

Letter 6
What is meant by lay figures?
^Definition 1 under Adj. Pepole not members of the clergy.

Discuss the difference Screwtape implies between what we think is Will and what God calls Heart.

Letter 7
Can you give an example or several of what Screwtape calls a faction or coterie?

"from the parties of Paul and of Apollos at Corinth down to the High and Low parties in the Church of England." needs some explanation.

Does "the lawfullness of serving in a just war" refer to Ex 20:13?
What is a 'just' war?

Letter 8

Is there reference to this Law of Undulation outside of TSL? Did Lewis invent the phrase?

Letter 9
Words: Anodyne
Redolent
What are these "appropriate passages" in scripture that it is clear should be avoided when in a Trough.

Letter 10

What is meant by 'literary communism'
It should be noted that 'communism' is really just an empty vocabulary word to anyone under 40 who didn't live under its threat. I really have no idea what it really is other than looking it up in the dictionary.

I also had to look up Mammon.

Letter 11
Not many pepole my age know what a scoffer is.
What exactly does Screwtape mean by Austerity? Is this just rhetoric that even from his own view is just not true?
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Postby galion » 08 Jan 2008, 13:28

"lay figure":

In this context, a "lay figure" is an old term for an artist's (inanimate) model. In L 6, a stereotyped image.
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Letter 12-13

Postby Peepiceek » 09 Jan 2008, 21:58

Words: Communicant
Roistering

The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong.”


What is the source of this quote? Im sure it is significant that Nothing is capitalised. As if to indicate Nothing itself. Not to say that (leastways not *only* to say that) not anything is strong without Him but the vacuum itself is strong.

Letter 13

The Christian definition of "grace" may be helpful here to Christian 'novices' such as myself.

On 'That asphyxiationg cloud', Screwtape says the phenomenon is well known. Is there any reference outside of TSL about this? Did Lewis invent the concept or rather this particular incarnation of it.
What does he mean by 'under certain modes'?
Who are Childe Harold and Werther?
What passed as 'expensive tedium' in 1941?
I think Lewis is trying to say that a 'real' pleasure is a very simple thing that makes you happy that is not in itself a sin and in no way promotes your worldly goals. i.e. tripe and onions. :confused: *blech* It may also be noted what 'tripe' is. (Ruminant stomach lining (not the collected works of Phillip Pullman :lol: ))

Screwtape wants WW to prevent him from 'doing anything'. What exactly should he do? Not think, do. (about his new repentance)
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Re: Letter 12-13

Postby Sven » 09 Jan 2008, 22:08

The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong.”


It used several times in the Book of Common Prayer in the traditional Collects. For example:

Proper 12 The Sunday closest to July 27

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom
nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply
upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we
may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not
the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth
and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Letter 12-13

Postby Karen » 09 Jan 2008, 22:37

Peepiceek wrote:Words: Communicant


A communicant is someone who receives communion (i.e. the Eucharist).

Roistering


Sort of like boisterous: loud, in partying mode, etc.

Who are Childe Harold and Werther?


Childe Harold is a poem by Byron. The Sorrows of Young Werther is novel by Goethe. Both were autobiographical, and part of the Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th c.
I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. -- Jorge Luis Borges
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Postby Peepiceek » 10 Jan 2008, 11:38

without whom
nothing is strong, nothing is holy


So lewis was being clever in his distinction between nothing (not anything) and Nothing (the emptiness itself). For the original quotation is certainly saying [there is not anything in existence that] is holy. and not [pure vacuuous emptiness] is holy. The distinction is kind of hard to put into words. It's like a Who's on first./? game.
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Letters 14-

Postby Peepiceek » 10 Jan 2008, 21:37

Letter 14

I believe the point of this letter is to make clear the difference between humility and modesty. Whereas modesty is maintaining a low opinion of yourself, humility is not think about yourself at all. Wouldn't a total lack of introspection make it difficult to know where you stand in any endeavour spiritual included?

Letter 15

How does the sin of lust look forward?
Philiological:
Also just as a side note. I am only including vocabulary words in these notes to give Dr. Ford an idea which words may need clearing up in his book. I appreciate all your responses but I don't want you to think I don't own a dictionary or know how to use it. :tongue:

Letter 16

On finding a church that 'suits' him: Is Lewis saying one shoud just pick any church and stick with it?

words: parochial
laity
platitude

Lewis speaks of platitude as though it were a good thing? We should want platitude to audible to our souls.

What are the appointed and lectionary psalms?

Is Screwtape saying that Fr (Friar? Father?) Spike hates his parents?

Who is Maritain?

What is a 'party' church?

Who are Hooker and Thomas Aquina? Can you sum up their doctrines? Is there no discernable difference beween them?

What did St. Paul teach about food and what does it have to do with scruples?

What are High and Low churchmen?

The whole last paragraph confused me really. Most likely because of my lack of knowledge about churches. I'm really like the patient pre-letter 2.


On another side note: I have notes pre-written out through letter 20 but then I may have to stop for awhile while I read The Great Divorce. I needed a break form Screwtape because in making these notes I have read letters 1-20 upwards of four times in a row. BTW I really love The Great Divorce. It's really fascinating. Does the main character die in all Lewis' books?
Last edited by Peepiceek on 10 Jan 2008, 22:00, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Letters 14-

Postby Karen » 10 Jan 2008, 22:00

Understood about the vocabulary. Do you want other questions answered, though, or are they all only for Paul?
I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. -- Jorge Luis Borges
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