Study Guide

Brother Joshua in A Canticle for Leibowitz

Brother Joshua

Poor Joshua. This guy is given the choice between leaving everything behind to go to the space colonies and staying on Earth, where he will probably die, along with the whole world. Oh, Hobson, and your terrible choices.

But Joshua rises to the challenge, and leads the Leibowitz Abbey into space. Plus, he totally goes full monty in front of Sister Helene. So we're kind of in love with Brother Joshua.

What Goes Around…

If the character of Joshua were to star a movie, the movie would be titled something like, Leibowitz: The Return. He's just that.

As Zerchi tells Joshua and his space-faring monks:

Wherever Man goes, you and your successors will go. And with you, the records and remembrances of four thousand years and more. Some of you, or those to come after you, will be mendicants and wanderers, teaching the chronicles of Earth and the canticles of the Crucified to the peoples and the cultures that may grow out of the colony groups. (26.88)

This sounds a lot like the story of Leibowitz that we read about in Fiat Homo. Remember how Leibowitz created a holy order of bookleggers and memorizers to composite and protect the Memorabilia? Their hope was that the Memorabilia would be ready when humanity needed it again.

Brother Joshua continues the tradition by bringing the order into space, where they will keep the Memorabilia safe on mircrofilm. (Microfilm is way easier to store in on a spaceship than a keg of books.) In time, the colonial groups will need this information, and the Leibowitz Order will be ready for them once again.

The Name Game

Joshua's name signifies his task well in advance of him taking the job. In the Bible, Joshua was the Hebrew leader who led the people of Israel into the Promised Land of Canaan. In the same way, Joshua leads the Leibowitz Order into the Promised Land of space.

Interesting note: Joshua was a warrior leader, conquering many peoples to take back Canaan, including the walled city of Jericho. Brother Joshua is anything but a warrior.

Do you think Brother Joshua's lack of killer instinct signifies inevitable doom for the Order of Leibowitz? Or do you think it represents a new beginning for the people of the space colonies—given that their leader is a lover, not a fighter?