Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Sebastian Rodrigues

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

Christovao Ferreira (krees-toh-VOW feh-

(The entire section is 636 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Silence ultimately is the spiritual odyssey of Sebastian Rodrigues, a man transformed before the reader’s eyes from a naive young priest with textbook theories about evangelism and vague aspirations toward martyrdom into a mature man who understands that conventionalized Western Christianity must be “translated” to survive and thrive in Eastern soil. As the novel moves from his letters to the omniscient narrator who explains his inner thoughts and motivations, Rodrigues learns that to renounce his faith by stepping on the fumie is to renounce only a “version” of institutionalized Christianity that bears little relation to the life of Christ himself. It is utterly fitting, then, that it is Christ’s face on the fumie which compels him to apostatize. Upon hearing Kichijiro’s confession, he believed thathis fellow priests would condemn his act as sacrilege; but even if he was betraying them, he was not betraying his Lord. He loved him now in a different way than before. Everything that had taken place until now had been necessary to bring him to this love.

In his apostasy, Rodrigues learns to love the unlovely, to embrace as his brother the Kichijiro whom he once rejected as a betrayer. Here, then, he is asked to translate his faith into Eastern sensibilities.

Kichijiro’s character appears to Western readers as a Judas figure, but to End, his devotion to the suffering martyrs which compels his betrayals of the priests...

(The entire section is 434 words.)