Study Guide

A Canticle for Leibowitz Power

By Walter M. Miller, Jr.

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Who controls your life? Excluding perhaps parental control, your immediate answer might be you. But the deeper you dig, the muddier things become. Are you religious? If so, does the Church control your life? What about the government? That social institution certainly has its say on many aspects of your life, but control? Yes or no? And we haven't even really gotten to the most important question: who should have control, and to what degree? Although A Canticle considers these questions, it never reaches a definitive conclusion. We're left to argue about how we should spend our lives (Fiat Homo), who should own knowledge and where it should reside (Fiat Lux), or on issues such as euthanasia (Fiat Voluntas Tua). Yippee, we love a good intellectual debate. Bring. It. On.

Questions About Power

  1. In A Canticle's struggle between Church and state, who do you think should come out on top and why?
  2. Does any character in the novel manage to have power in both the government and the Church? If so, who? And what does this character suggest to us about the theme of power? If not, then why do you think such a character is absent from the novel?
  3. Is any character free from the influences of the government and the Church? If so, who, and why do you think he or she is free? If not, then why not?
  4. Father Zerchi and Dr. Cors have different opinions on euthanasia. Do you agree with either one? Why? Why not?

Chew on This

In Fiat Homo, the Church is the most powerful institution because it holds the power of science and technology simultaneously. But in Fiat Voluntas Tua, the state has surpassed the Church because it now controls technology.

The Memorabilia contain only worldly sources of knowledge (scientific, historical, and literary). Works of a religious manner, such as the Bible or canticles, are considered separately.

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