Study Guide

A Canticle for Leibowitz Chapter 20

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Chapter 20

  • In the refectory, the prayers are said and Dom Paulo lifts the rule of abstinence to make the dinner a party. Rock on.
  • All is dandy until the Poet steals a seat at the table where Taddeo's sitting.
  • Dom Paulo apologizes for the Poet's presence, but the Poet steals the scene in addition to stealing a seat. He says that everyone should always have someone else apologize for them.
  • That way, people never have to apologize for themselves (which is no fun at all).
  • Following his own rules, the Poet apologizes for Dom Paulo, and suggests that Thon Taddeo would have found the new apology system of great benefit.
  • Alas, they will never know, for someone has stolen the Poet's blue-headed goat. And now all is lost.
  • Taddeo assumes the goat is meant to be the "scapegoat" (get it? nudge nudge, wink wink?). But the Poet says he misses the point.
  • The goat was to have been praised while Thon Taddeo can blame Leibowitz for all of the mistakes.
  • The Poet then jokes about the soldier's sketches, and how they'll one day hang in a museum of fine art. One of Hannegan's soldiers has an "oh, no he didn't" moment, and draws his sword.
  • This Poet is quite a pun-ner and a jokester, and it gets him in serious trouble sometimes.
  • Dom Paulo kicks the Poet out (who leaves his glass eye to watch the men).
  • Taddeo demands the other soldiers usher the angry, sword-drawing one to his room to cool off.
  • Dom Paulo takes this chaotic opportunity to inform Taddeo about the soldier's sketches. Taddeo is mortified by the news, and promises to speak with the abbot about the matter before he leaves.
  • Taddeo begins his presentation by stating he's 99.9% sure the Memorabilia documents are authentic, and the wealth of knowledge within them is staggering.
  • With that said, it'll take many experts and several generations to understand the Memorabilia thoroughly. He's in it for the long haul.
  • He discusses his own studies on refracted light, all while hoping his conclusions don't offend anyone's religious beliefs.
  • A monk asks him what it is about refracted light that could possibly offend these pious people.
  • Taddeo mentions Marcus Apollo's belief that the rainbow was created by God as a covenant with Noah, so refracted light couldn't have existed before the Biblical Flood.
  • The congregation busts a gut laughing. Clearly, for them, that part of Genesis is best read as symbolic.
  • Taddeo continues discussing the work of the collegium. Every time he thinks their work counters some religious belief, he finds that the monks are accepting of his ideas.
  • Brother Armbruster heckles Taddeo, and Dom Paulo kicks him out.
  • After this super friendly reception by the religious folk, Taddeo believes they are on the path to change since Truth (yep, capital Truth) has returned to the world.
  • Although the change will be violent so long as Ignorance remains king.
  • Boom, in pops Benjamin. The old hermit walks up to Thon Taddeo, stares into the scholar's eyes, and proclaims, "It's still not Him" before hobbling out (20.151).
  • Um. Okay then.

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