Study Guide

A Canticle for Leibowitz Chapter 16

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.

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Chapter 16

  • Benjamin stands at the edge of his mesa and watches Dom Paulo's approach.
  • Dom Paulo mentions that he's returned Benjamin's "prodigal," but the old hermit says the Poet won the beast fairly—even if he cheated (16.10).
  • We're not exactly sure how that logic works out, but that's okay.
  • The two friends say their hellos, and Dom Paulo mentions how he's heard Old Ben is throwing rocks at novices again.
  • Benjamin says it can't be helped.
  • A long time ago, one of those novices mistook him for a relative of his, a Leibowitz, and he doesn't want that to happen again.
  • Dom Paulo is surprised at Benjamin's knowledge of abbey history and muses on the old hermit's claim to being "older than Methuselah," who clocked in a respectable 969 years (16.37).
  • The two head to Benjamin's hut for a drink and some chitchat.
  • Dom Paulo tells the hermit that Thon Taddeo is coming to visit the abbey, and Benjamin says he's heard of this scholar.
  • Dom Paulo wants to know Benjamin's opinion on the man, but the old hermit's mind wanders toward the past.
  • You know how old hermits are about talking about the past.
  • Dom Paulo thinks on his friend's burden, how he feels the need to take on the responsibilities of the entire Jewish people while waiting for his Messiah.
  • Heavy stuff.
  • Then the two discuss the differences between Christian and Jewish theology because, hey, what's a little theological debate between friends, right?
  • Dom Paulo confesses that he's afraid the abbey will lose its purpose in a world where people like Thon Taddeo and places like the collegium have taken stock in the education game.
  • The hermit says he'll not commit to a prophecy until he's seen Taddeo and that light contraption of Kornhoer's.
  • He will say this though: he hopes, this time around, Taddeo is on their side rather than that of the "Pharaoh[s], Caesar[s]," and Hannegans of the world (16.152).

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