Sebastian Rodrigues (seh-bahs-tee-AHN rrohd-REE-gehs), a young Portuguese seminarian. Rodrigues, with two other priests, acquires permission to journey to Japan to track down his former mentor to learn why he has renounced his faith. Because the novel is essentially the spiritual odyssey of Rodrigues told through his correspondence, his character is discerned through his sensitive and candid portrayal of the events around him, which are filtered through the eyes of one seeking to understand and exonerate his beloved teacher from his ostensible apostasy. Rodrigues begins as a naïve young priest with textbook theories about cross-cultural evangelism and with his own vague aspirations toward martyrdom neatly submerged. As he matures in his understanding of the complexities of the Japanese setting, he confronts Ferreira in his supposed sin and, eventually, undergoes his own apostasy by trampling the fumie, or image of Christ. In this act, he comes to reinterpret his actions and those of his fellow apostates as renunciations of only an institutionalized form of Christianity that had no roots in Japan or the original gospel and deserves no allegiance. In his apostasy, Rodrigues has learned to love the unlovely, to forgive and embrace his fallen mentor and the formerly outcast Kichijiro, whom he once rejected as a betrayer.
Christovao Ferreira (krees-toh-VOW feh-
(The entire section is 636 words.)