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In discussing John Milton’s manipulation of the reader in Paradise Lost, C. S. Lewis comments generally on the art of rhetoric: “I do not think (and no great civili-zation has ever thought) that the art of the rhetorician is necessarily vile. It is in itself noble, though of course, like most arts, it can be wickedly used” (53). From comments in his letters and essays, we know that Lewis thought frequently about his own work as a Christian apologist, concerned that he pursue truth in his arguments rather than trying to win an argument at all costs. In fact, he went so far as to say, in a letter to his friend and fellow apologist Dorothy Sayers, that apologetic work is “so dangerous to one’s own faith,” noting “A doctrine never seems dimmer to me than when I have just successfully defended it” (Letter to Dorothy Sayers, August 2, 1946). Lewis’s fears about the misuse of rhetoric extend to others as well. He seems particularly concerned about the tendency of powerful people to use language and rhetoric wickedly, and he portrays some of these as characters in his own fiction. Consider, for example, Weston in Perelandra, Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters, and Shift in The Last Battle.


Originally published in The Lamp-Post Of the Southern California C.S. Lewis Society, Volume 38, Number 1 Spring/Summer 2020.