Study Guide

A Canticle for Leibowitz Chapter 24

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.

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Chapter 24

  • In this era, there are spaceships and humanity has begun colonizing the stars. Finally, our author is adding some of science fiction's more recognizable flavors to this novel.
  • We then get an experimental part of the text, which contrasts soldiers performing a marching ditty with monks singing a canticle.
  • Good stuff. Weird stuff, but good.
  • Then we're presented with a news briefing. The Defense Minister manages to answer all of the reporters' questions, but it's obvious he isn't telling the whole story.
  • Isn't it always obvious?
  • When a reporter asks him if he's read the scientific materials on the subject of nuclear tests, the Defense Minster answers "no." So much for Thon Taddeo's vision of the future.
  • Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, er, the Leibowitz Abbey, Father Zerchi is fiddling with his Autoscribe.
  • Brother Pat tries to help, but all he does is potentially void the warranty.
  • After the fiasco, Zerchi says a small prayer to Saint Leibowitz and has at it again.
  • Because prayer always helps.
  • He then sends a cryptic message to a Sir Eric Cardinal Hoffstraff informing him that their part in the Quo peregrinatur is being maintained, and can be ready in a week if necessary.
  • He receives a response on paper—paper? in the future? how delightfully quaint—and calls for Brother Pat.
  • Brother Joshua tells him Pat is out, and the Zone Defense Interior has ordered all private transmissions halted.
  • By midafternoon, that same Brother Joshua is on the abbey roof taking measurements while below, the children talk of old Lazar.
  • Joshua's dust measurements read "MAX NORM" for the levels of radioactive isotopes (24.136). After a quick bath, and accidently mooning Sister Helene, Joshua shuts down the laboratory.
  • Back at the office, he receives a call from Father Zerchi. They discuss the data, but Zerchi really wants Joshua with him when he receives a response to his radiogram. It concerns Quo peregrinatur.
  • On his way out, Joshua spies Mrs. Grales's two-headed silhouette near the gate.
  • He's not repelled by the woman's disfigurement, but he uses the underpass to return to the abbey. Now is not a time for idle chitchat with an old woman.
  • This is war, kiddos.

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