A Canticle for Leibowitz

by Walter M. Miller Jr.

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Summary and Analysis: Part 2 (Fiat Lux), Chapter 20

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Summary
The abbey is ready for the banquet to honor Taddeo. The refectory’s tables are set with quality utensils, and the head table will host Dom Paulo, Gault, Taddeo, and four others from Taddeo’s party, although Dom Paulo wonders who will sit at the eighth place. The seven people sit down, and during Dom Paulo’s blessing, Poet takes the eighth place. Poet cracks a joke about the dinner meal, then makes a joke about apologizing for his presence. He continues the joke about apologetics by referring to his intent to give the goat to Taddeo as a scapegoat. When Poet talks about Hannegan II as planning to seize the abbey, an officer in Taddeo’s party takes out his sword. Dom Paulo, who has been growing more and more irritated, tells Poet to leave the table. As Poet leaves, he takes out his glass eyeball and puts it on his wine cup.

Taddeo responds angrily to Poet’s provocation, but he is surprised to learn that Poet’s reference to the officers making drawings of the abbey’s defenses is accurate. Taddeo promises to talk about the drawings with Dom Paulo later.

Dom Paulo and Taddeo soon head up to the lectern. Dom Paulo introduces Taddeo, who begins his talk by praising the abbey for preserving the Memorabilia, and says studying the material contained in it would take many scientists and a long time. He describes pages from a book that discuss space-time and how inexplicable its conclusions are to modern scientists. However, he criticizes the abbey for leaving this and similar texts within its inaccessible library, and he indicates that the Memorabilia should be transferred to another site. But Taddeo soon leaves this subject for a brief discussion of studies of optics and refraction, and a discussion of the work in various scientific fields of some of the members of the collegium. He adds that Maho Manh is studying the origin of the human species, and that Esser Shon is trying to synthesize living matter.

This sparks a question from Armbruster, who makes what seems to be a joke about Esser Shon using sex to make this living matter. Dom Paulo punishes Armbruster by dismissing him from the banquet. Taddeo resumes his comments by proclaiming that soon “Truth” will rule the earth rather than ignorance, and great technologies, such as planes, submarines, and automobiles, will emerge. He adds the prediction, however, that in the interim, ignorance will wreak havoc. Dom Paulo takes this as a reference to Taddeo’s acceptance of Hannegan II’s ambition to create an empire. Suddenly, Benjamin appears in the entrance to the banquet hall, walks up to the lectern and examines Taddeo, and declares, “It’s still not Him.”

Analysis
Poet’s misbehavior at the banquet brings the conflict between Taddeo and the abbey to a head. The unease between Taddeo and the abbey has been a subtext to the visit, always present but never really addressed. Poet is reprimanded by Dom Paulo, but he brings out the central cause of the conflict: the abbey’s unease at the power that Taddeo represents, and its fears that Hannegan II may threaten the peace that the abbey and its Church currently enjoy. By suggesting that the Memorabilia be transferred to some more accessible place, Taddeo adds to the abbey’s cause for fear. The abbey knows it could not resist Hannegan II if he decided to seize the Memorabilia and transport it to his capital. Poet’s joke about the scapegoat clearly implies, too, that Taddeo may have the need to shift blame for his actions to the goat that Poet mockingly intends to give him.

(This entire section contains 743 words.)

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Poet’s misbehavior at the banquet brings the conflict between Taddeo and the abbey to a head. The unease between Taddeo and the abbey has been a subtext to the visit, always present but never really addressed. Poet is reprimanded by Dom Paulo, but he brings out the central cause of the conflict: the abbey’s unease at the power that Taddeo represents, and its fears that Hannegan II may threaten the peace that the abbey and its Church currently enjoy. By suggesting that the Memorabilia be transferred to some more accessible place, Taddeo adds to the abbey’s cause for fear. The abbey knows it could not resist Hannegan II if he decided to seize the Memorabilia and transport it to his capital. Poet’s joke about the scapegoat clearly implies, too, that Taddeo may have the need to shift blame for his actions to the goat that Poet mockingly intends to give him.

The joke by Armbruster about the attempt to synthesize living matter again brings the conflict into the open. Armbruster seems to think that such experiments are not necessary, are possibly immoral attempts to control life, and perhaps represent the misguided ambitions of secular scholars and scientists. Benjamin’s judgment of Taddeo that “it’s still not Him” shows he too is skeptical about Taddeo’s abilities and goals in coming to the abbey. And Dom Paulo’s suspicion that Taddeo intends to stand by while Hannegan II creates an empire indicates that Dom Paulo feels Taddeo’s wisdom does not extend to the ability to condemn Hannegan II’s immoral plans rather than adopt the expedient of accommodating Hannegan II for the supposed benefit of himself and his collegium.

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Summary and Analysis: Part 2 (Fiat Lux), Chapters 18-19

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Summary and Analysis: Part 2 (Fiat Lux), Chapters 21-23