Study Guide

A Canticle for Leibowitz Chapter 29

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Chapter 29

  • Father Lehy listens to Zerchi's confession about the punching-Dr. Cors incident.
  • Although Zerchi is unsure about whether or not he can face Mrs. Grales, he goes to listen to her confession anyway.
  • Mrs. Grales asks for God's forgiveness, and also wishes to forgive God for making her as she is.
  • The confession continues until they hear a distant roaring.
  • Mrs. Grales screams that the "'Dread One'" is there (29.28).
  • Zerchi quickly provides her an act of contrition. He then orders her to wait until the light fades, and run.
  • He bolts from the confession booth and grabs the Eucharist before the building tumbles on top of him.
  • When he comes to, his back is pinned down by five tons of rubble that used to be the abbey. He calls for help, but hears no one.
  • He thinks back to Dr. Cors, finally realizing what he wanted to tell the doctor.
  • His words: when people seek "only [minimized suffering and maximum security]" they find "only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security" (29.58).
  • Now that sounds like a good scifi novel sound bite to us.
  • Zerchi hallucinates, imagining Brother Pat. He realizes he's afraid to die "before he [accepts] as much suffering as that which came to the child who could not comprehend it" (29.63).
  • Then he finds a skull from the abbey's crypts. The skull has a hole where an arrow pierced it. Hello, Brother Francis, long time no see.
  • Zerchi sleeps a while. When he awakes, he tells an inquisitive buzzard that dinner will have to wait. He's not dead yet.
  • He hears someone singing in the distance, so he calls for help again. Rachel comes to him. Mrs. Grales's head slumps over dead on their shoulders.
  • Rachel mimics Zerchi's words in a childish manner. Zerchi decides to baptize the woman, but Rachel refuses the sacrament.
  • Instead, she takes the Eucharist and provides Zerchi with communion.
  • The abbot accepts the offering and tries to teach her Mary's song (no, not the Taylor Swift song).
  • He wonders why God chose to grant this creature the gifts of Eden, but sees in her eyes the promise of resurrection.
  • Then he passes away.
  • See ya.