Study Guide

A Canticle for Leibowitz Chapter 21

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Chapter 21

  • Word arrives that Hannegan has made his move against Laredo.
  • Oh, and Marcus Apollo has been found guilty of treason and espionage. Reading about Apollo's execution makes our skin crawl.
  • We're sorry, where were we?
  • Right. Taddeo offers to leave the abbey. He condemns Hannegan's actions personally, but publically, he's still the mayor's kin.
  • And must consider the collegium's wellbeing.
  • Dom Paulo says his "'common humanity makes [him] welcome'" and that he may stay (21.15).
  • But a rift has formed between Taddeo and the monks all the same, and Taddeo keeps to himself.
  • Later, the townsfolk demand sanctuary within the abbey's fortifications.
  • Dom Paulo opens up the abbey to all women, children, and elderly, and requests nothing of them.
  • But the men must pledge their loyalty to the abbey. The pledge is to ensure no outside political forces use the abbey as a garrison.
  • Even the Poet leaves, and that is a bad sign.
  • Taddeo discovers the Poet jacked his boots. But, as he explains to Dom Paulo, he's put one over on the joker too. He stole the Poet's glass eye.
  • Dom Paulo explains how the Poet crafted a jest around the glass eye, calling it his "'removable conscience'" (21.48).
  • Taddeo likes that, and decides he knows someone who could use the eye.
  • The two decide to be honest with each other.
  • Taddeo says he cannot oppose Hannegan, for the sake of the collegium.
  • Dom Paulo notes that Taddeo promised to restore Man's control over Nature. But he wonders who will profit from Taddeo's work, and who will suffer.
  • He says Taddeo has the choice: serve God or serve Hannegan.
  • Taddeo will not serve the Church. But we knew that would happen.