Canticle for Leibowitz (1959)



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Canticle for Leibowitz (1959)


Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Study Questions


PART I – Fiat Homo

  1. Note 3 passages that help describe the society in Miller’s story.



  1. Note 3 passages that you found interesting in some way. What was interesting about it?



  1. Note 3 passages that were obscure or confusing.



  1. Miller writes several passages about the “flame deluge” the “simplification,” etc. What do you thing these stories are about (the “historical reality” behind the storyDo you think there is a “deeper truth” that these stories might be expressing?



  1. What do you think is the “big idea” behind this story?



PART II– Fiat Lux

  1. As the Monks light the arc lamp for the first time (chapter 18), they recite a long passage from Christian Scripture. Where does this come from? What do you think Miller is trying to say in this passage?



  1. What is Thon Thaddeo’s reaction to Monsignor Apollo’s beliefs about the refraction of light? What prediction does Thon Thaddeo make about science in the future?


  1. Read the following passage (after Dom Paulo rebukes Thaddeo’s speculations:

“Yes, yes, but the freedom to speculate is essential—“

“No one has tried to deprive you of that. Noe is anyone offended. But to abuse the intellect for reasons of pride, vanity of excape from responsibility, is the fruit of that same tree.”

“You question the honor of my motives?” asked the thon, darkening.


“At times I question my own. But ask yourself this: Why do you wish to take delight in leaping to such a wild conjecture from so fragile a springboard? Why do you wish to discredit the past, even to dehumanizing the last civilization? So that you need not learn from their mistakes? Or can it be that you can’t bear being only a ‘rediscoverer,’ and must feel that you are a ‘creator’ as well?”
Why might Thon Thaddeo be drawn to the theory that humanity is a recent invention? What effect would that fact have on the value of his scientific research?


  1. How is the ending of this section different from the previous one? How is it the same? What is this saying about humanity?


  1. What do you think is the “big idea” behind this story?

PART II– Fiat Voluntus Tua

  1. Fathe Zerchi comments that if a computer can emulate a human soul, it can also “fall.” What does this mean? What is Miller suggesting about technology? Doy ou agree?




  1. Who was right about euthenasia: Dom Zerchi or Dr. Cors? (be ready to defent your answer!)



  1. Who is the pilgrim (who seems to keep showing up!) What does this character suggest about the theme of the book?




  1. What do you think is the “big idea” behind this story?





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