Study Guide

Silence Fear

By Shusaku Endo


But I was thinking of a more terrible fate. He had not fled. Like Judas he had gone to betray us. (2.18)

As soon as he meets Kichijiro, Rodrigues becomes terrified that the old drunk will betray him. This theme is echoed throughout the novel: our priests are constantly fearful that their Japanese congregation will turn against them.

I cannot picture myself at the moment of capture by the Japanese. In our little hut I have a feeling of eternal safety. (3.27)

At a certain point, Rodrigues stops being afraid altogether. Unfortunately, this is pure self-deception: he has to know that the authorities will be looking for him. Still, he convinces himself that he's safe as can be.

What a disgrace it would be to betray my vocation from cowardly fear. (3.51)

That would be a disgrace, old chum. Still, like the dreaded Kichijiro, Rodrigues is driven more by fear than he'd like to admit, his every action shaped by the desire to stay alive.

On one hand he did not want to lose his reputation as a good Christian; and yet in his little head he was thinking furiously of a way to preserve his life. (4.30)

Although Kichijiro has become a respected member of the village, that hasn't made him any more comfortable in his own skin. Here we see an amazing contradiction: a so-called "good Christian" who doesn't want to do the things that "good Christians" do. It's hard to blame him, though, given that the choice is frequently between life and death.

This time it was not a ferocious-looking samurai on horseback who came but an old samurai with smiling face. (4.32)

The Japanese government is highly skilled in the art of intimidation. They know that it isn't always about big burly dudes and threats of violence. Sometimes it's about making your victims comfortable before snatching it all away.

Fear that they too would eventually be subjected to the same investigation gripped the people, and almost no one went into the fields to work. (4.67)

As you can see, the samurai's investigation strikes terror into the hearts of the villagers. These people have felt the iron fist of the samurai before and aren't eager to feel it again—no matter how many assurances Rodrigues gives them. Can you really blame them?

Yes, that cowardly wretch who had trampled on the fumie at Nagasaki and fled. Were I an ordinary Christian, not a priest, would I have fled in the same way? (4.102)

We hate to drop a spoiler on y'all, but here it goes—Rodrigues does indeed trample on the fumie. The truth is that Kichijiro and Father Rodrigues are more alike than the priest would like to admit—both men are cowards at heart.

"Father, sometimes courage only causes trouble for other people. We call that blind courage." (5.72)

That certainly was true here, right? Every time Rodrigues tries to do something bold and courageous, he only ends up causing the suffering of innocent Japanese Christians.

One that night had that man, too, felt the silence of God? Had he, too, shuddered with fear? (7.136)

We're no theologians, but we're sure the answer to this is oh, heck yes. Remember: Jesus even begged God to let him to walk away from the crucifixion because it scared him so much. One thing that made Jesus unique (and a model for martyrs), though, was that he went through with what he believed what his vocation, despite his fear.

To what extent he would be able to endure the torture he could not tell. Yet somehow it no longer held for his exhausted body the terror is had. (8.9)

Now that Rodrigues has been beaten down, he has nothing left to fear. In a way, this is a moment of peace—a moment when he feels at one with Jesus's struggles. He finally realizes that true bravery isn't the absence of fear, but the ability to reckon with it. And reckon with it he does.