Study Guide

Silence Betrayal

By Shusaku Endo


Valignano did not so much as utter a word about rumors that Ferreira had succumbed [...] Like us, he was loathe to attribute such fanciful charges to his old friend. (1.12)

Father Rodrigues visits Japan to learn the truth about Father Ferreira. This is a deeply personal matter for him: Ferreira had been one of his favorite teachers at the seminary. That's like graduating from medical school only to find out that all your teachers had fake PhDs.

Now it was clear enough Kichijiro was a Christian who had once apostatized. Eight years before, he and his whole family, all Christians, had been betrayed. (3.67)

Kichijiro seems haunted by the memory of this betrayal. This passage raises another question, however: was Kichijiro the one who ratted his family out in the first place? After all, Kichijiro proves time and time again that he isn't the most loyal fellow when things start heating up.

Christ wanted to save even Judas. If not, he would never have made him one of his disciples. (4.166)

As he spends more time with Kichijiro, Rodrigues begins obsessing over the relationship between Jesus and Judas, associating himself with Jesus and Kichijiro with Judas. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated.

"This is the feeling of the husband who loves his wife but feels disgust at such behaviour [...] and Christ's attitude toward Judas was something like that." (4.167)

At a certain point, Rodrigues convinces himself that Jesus hated Judas. This is just a rationalization, however, as Rodrigues can't help but despise Kichijiro for turning him over to the authorities. This claim doesn't even make sense when you think about it: isn't Jesus's whole deal that he loves everyone, without exception?

"He's alive alright. In fact he has taken a Japanese name, and he lives in a mansion in Nagasaki together with his wife. He is in good repute now." (5.104)

As it turns out, Ferreira's betrayal is deeper than Rodrigues could have ever imagined. Ferreira has completely given in to the Japanese way of life, shedding his religion, his customs, and his former identity. Rodrigues can't understand how this could have happened.

"Go, what thou dost do quickly." Even Christ had cast these words of anger at the Judas who betrayed him. (5.149)

The phrase "Go, what thou dost do quickly" comes up frequently in the novel. At this point, Rodrigues interprets it as Jesus's anger at Judas' betrayal—once again, a reflection of his own rage at Kichijiro.

Why had Judas followed after? Was he incited by lust for revenge—to watch the final destruction of the man he had sold? (7.31)

We have an easy answer for you, buddy: shame. There is no way that Kichijiro is proud of what he's done—after all, the poor guy's entire adulthood is defined by his propensity towards betrayal. In our eyes, Kichijiro keeps following Rodrigues because he desperately wants forgiveness.

Ferreira—who was writing that this Christianity to which he had devoted his life was false. (7.199)

This is almost more than Rodrigues can bear. Ferreira didn't merely betray his faith to escape torture; he betrayed it because he sincerely doesn't believe in it. That's huge.

"You refuse to do so. It's because you dread to betray the Church. You dread to be the dregs of the Church, like me." (8.95)

This is the truth that Rodrigues has been desperate to escape. In many ways, Rodrigues is just like Kichijiro: both men are terrified of death and do whatever they can to escape it. What's worse, Rodrigues's fear of betraying the Church has directly led to the suffering of innocents.

"Just as I told you to step on the plaque, so I told Judas to do what he was going to do. For Judas was in anguish as you are now." (10.81)

Finally, Rodrigues realizes the truth—he's been Judas all along. He also finally understands the relationship between Jesus and his betrayer—even in his darkest moment, Jesus simply wanted his friend's suffering to end, no matter the cost.