In Brendan, the protagonist’s nautical attainments constituting the heart of the story are not presented as great feats of heroism in Brendan’s mind. He does not see them as a means of spreading the gospel, nor—unlike in other stories about his contemporaries who leave Ireland—are they a punishment. Instead, they are presented as expressions of Brendan’s naïve, foolhardy, God-seeking personality. Despite his education, Brendan remains essentially simple. His clerical eminence, established by his monastic foundation at Clonfert, is not synonymous with the secular power that abbots and other high-ranking members of the hierarchy possessed in those times. On the contrary, Brendan makes his way in ignorance and in poverty, with a humble, unassuming, and rather doubt-laden cast of mind.
Although Brendan is equipped with the power to work miracles and is able to apply that power opportunely in moments of danger, it is his humility that attracts adherents. Finn, in particular, provides a clear perspective on the combination of uncertainty and devotion that are continually at odds within Brendan. Unlike Brendan, Finn is not a cleric. He is more worldly, as his marriage and paternity suggest, and though he is touched by the wonder of the Christian message, he is less driven to experience the glory of it than is Brendan. Finn is clearly conceived as a foil to the protagonist, and his greater steadiness and narrower psychological range show...
(The entire section is 528 words.)