In a radical departure from earlier fictions, Moore situated this novel in the Quebec province of Canada in 1635, yet the novel features another portrait of a character struggling with a lonely passion. The novel centers on Father Laforgue, a young French Jesuit, who approaches missionary work among the “Savages” (the European name for the native inhabitants) of North America with overwhelming zeal.
As in the case of each of Moore’s historical novels, Laforgue is modeled after an actual figure, Father Noel Chabanel, though Laforgue becomes a vehicle for Moore to explore long-standing themes and concerns. Perhaps the most crucial of these is the theme of faith. In Laforgue, Moore paints a portrait of man whose life, his very being, is informed by a deep, ravishing faith in something beyond himself. In many of his novels, Moore examined the loss of faith, the sense of vacuousness that comes without any sense of deep and abiding belief. Laforgue is, in fact, so dedicated and convinced of his beliefs that he longs for martyrdom and the opportunity for self-sacrifice. Thus, the location of action in the seventeenth century allows for a revealing counterpoint to the contemporary period in which lives are largely lived without any larger system of belief.
This is not to suggest, however, that Moore’s dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church has suddenly vanished. Father Laforgue is so convinced of his spiritual rectitude that he stands in...
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