Study Guide

Silence Foreignness and the Other

By Shusaku Endo

Foreignness and the Other

Silence is pretty much just Lost In Translation—but with Catholic priests instead of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Not a fair trade, we know, but you'll survive. In the novel, we follow Father Sebastien Rodrigues, a Jesuit missionary of Portuguese descent, as he spreads the Gospel in 1600s Japan. This isn't a walk in the park, however. Not only must Rodrigues constantly evade the authorities, but he must also come face to face with his own prejudices toward and preconceptions about the Japanese. Though Rodrigues is by no means a bad dude, his innate biases speak volumes about the relationship between his European homeland and his Asian base of operations.

Questions About Foreignness and the Other

  1. How does Rodrigues's Eurocentric worldview affect his view of the Japanese?
  2. Is the interpreter justified in his bitterness toward priests?
  3. In what ways does Rodrigues fail to see the Japanese as individuals?
  4. Does Rodrigues's relationship with the Japanese change by the end of the novel? Explain.

Chew on This

From minute one, Rodrigues sees himself as inherently better than the Japanese, almost exclusively on racial terms.

Though he's bigoted for most of the novel, Rodrigues eventually gains respect for the Japanese after becoming a citizen himself.