The Right in Doing the Wrong

In Silence by Shusaku Endo, Rodrigues, a Priest from Portugal, travels to Japan – a country hostile to Christianity. However, in his mission, Rodrigues gets captured and ultimately must make the decision of publicly denouncing his faith by stepping on the fumie. Seen as a great disrespect in Japan, the fumie fixed with the face of Christ was trampled on by Rodrigues. While it is known that the moment his foot contacted the face of Christ, he had done something wrong, was he right in doing so?

While some might agree that doing something wrong cannot be justified or “right,” our decisions are made based upon the conditions and context we are placed in, “the unconscious priming effects a person encounters, how a decision is framed, or what other choices are available for comparison” (https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/understanding-human-behavior/). Rodrigues trampled on the fumie because of the predicament and experience he had faced throughout his time in Japan; patronizing a person for making a decision off of that is faulty. Yes, he is a Christian and did something immoral to those beliefs, however, God gifted the ability to freely think and make decisions knowing that we all would perform immoral actions at some point. Maybe that is not enough to justify Rodrigues’ actions however we should not criticize him for doing something that a lot of us would have done as well, placed in his condition. We all could say we would never to something so wrong or we could never bring ourselves to do what he did, but most of us probably would. If I had walked into a room full of people being cruelly punished and was asked to do something, even outrageous, I would because that is the scenario I would be dealing with and the context in which I would validate the decision that I made. While Rodrigues could have inferred that the people were going to suffer whether he stepped or not, are we good people if we stand and no nothing? As Christians, should we not try to help others?

From another standpoint, Rodrigues mentality could also be evaluated. At this point in the novel, the silence from God was taken almost as a rejection to Rodrigues. He had questioned his own faith because he felt that lack of presence in Japan. The condition in which our minds are in affects every action that we perform. For Rodrigues, from a psychological perspective, his feeling of “rejection” led him to trample the face of Christ. It is not uncommon to have a feeling of wanting to dispel our anger towards a person. That feeling of “getting back” at something. However, using revenge as a reason for doing something immoral can be deducted as wrong. It would not make sense to defend a wrong action by another wrong action.

Personally, I do not think we are given enough to make a solid justification on if Rodrigues is right or wrong to trample the fumie. It is all perspective based. Do you think Rodrigues was thinking of helping others or was he scorned with revenge? The answer to that question most likely determines if you agree with his decision or not. However, perspectives aside and more from a logical view, was he right or wrong? Logically thinking, given his situation, he acted out of his humanity. The matter of the fact is we all care about our survival. We all do things to ensure our survival. I mean, life is the act of surviving and we all do things to protect it. Those things might not always be right or wrong, sometimes we will never know the extent they have. However, if we all did not think that at some point our decisions were right then why try so hard to defend them?

Deducting if Rodrigues was right in trampling the fumie is a hard task with justifications to both answers. There will always be right and wrong in the world and we will continue to make decisions knowing that.

“And then the Christ in bronze speaks to the priest: Trample!” (Silence pg. 183).

“and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Psalm 50:15

 

Questioning Silence

Reading Silence really made me think about our own religion and culture, and I had many questions related both to the book and our own lives that I doubt the author or anyone could truly answer. Were the missionaries needed? Christianity thrived in Japan without them, while it might not be the same as Portuguese Christianity, they were thriving with their own version. Is there a right or wrong version of Christianity? How even though there are different versions based on where they live, they still believe in the one same God, the same principles, is that not good enough? How certain people believe you have to follow certain steps or traditions to be considered a true believer in Christ. For example, how Rodrigues judged the Japanese for not having any crosses or rosary beads. I think it is up to the believer, and everything is up to each person’s interpretation. And by not having these items or not going to church everyday does not make you any less of a Christian. The missionaries coming to Japan reminds me of the superhero paradox: there will always be crime, but once there is a hero, the crime rate increases, and often at a more severe scale. A hero is nothing without a bad guy to fight. Like Vision said from Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, in their civil battle for heroes rights, “our very presence invites a challenge”. Heroes can’t save everyone, the priests can’t save everyone, but would they even be in danger if they were never there in the first place? Oftentimes the problems that arise would have never happened if the hero or priest was not there. Do the Japanese even want the missionaries? They do not know how the priests really feel about them, at least with Rodrigues and his superiority complex, despite being a priest. How he saw the Japanese Christians as “things” and “its” rather than actual people. The Japanese were doing just fine without the priests and only started dying when they came. They only started dying when these priests came trying to put their version of Christianity on the Japanese. Did some Japanese not want Christianity just because that is what they were taught or was it actually what they wanted? And that can spill over into all other aspects of life, is it really what you want or is it what you were taught? And what you were taught can be considered right or wrong by different people who were taught different things. Some people go against what they were originally taught and raised because of exposure to different ways but if you were never exposed, if you never knew anything different than what you were taught, how do you make your own decisions? Who are the Portuguese to decide what is best for the Japanese? And who is the Japanese government to decide what is best for the wellbeing of every Japanese citizen? In that aspect it is not about their faith, because they allowed Christianity to continue in the country, it was about power. If the faith were to become large enough and establish a church, it could challenge the power of the current standing government, and they could not have that. How we are raised, where we are raised and the cultures we are brought up in is what shapes us to be who we are. Our religion and spirituality establishes that even more, and is a core part of many people’s lives. This being the case, no matter what religion you are taught, that religion can shape who you are, become a part of you, a part you do not want taken away no matter the law. Other times it can make you question everything, such as the age old question in this book and in life, why is God silent during atrocities that take place in our lives? How can such a perfect being exist, with such grand power, allow terrible things to happen everyday? How can he sit back and watch his children he loves so dearly die everyday for simply loving him? Why does he let these things happen? What purpose do they serve if they could all be so easily prevented? My best answer to this is that these things shape us to become who we are. Bad things are going to happen and the world is not going to be perfect or fair, but everything we go through, every hardship you face, is what is going to determine the kind of person you are going to be. How you handle these bad things, and push through them, determine the kind of person you are. Some people are strong willed and become better in the face of adversity. Others are not. In a perfect world with no struggles or hardships you will never be pushed to your limits, to see how far you can go without breaking. Maybe that is not a satisfactory answer but as this book proves, some questions just do not have answers.

Who are the Betrayers in Japan?

The idea of betrayal is a prominent idea/theme in the book, Silence. There are various events seen among various characters in the plot where betrayal is truly shown.  The two most important characters to note are Kichijiro and Sebastian Rodrigues. When Rodrigues and Garrpe make their way to Macao, Japan because of their desire to practice Paternalism, they meet a Japanese man named Kichijiro first. Kichijiro is quickly classified by Rodrigues and Garrpe as “Reeling from excess of alcohol, a drunken man…” (Endo 15). The two priests attempt to spread faith and Christianity throughout Japan, which is highly opposed by the governments Buddhist religious beliefs. So, Garrpe asks Kichijiro off the bat if he was a Christian. Garrpe and Rodrigues learn that Kichijiro does in fact deny that he is a Christian, they reckon that he is a part of their faith due to his temper when being asked “Are you a Christian?” As conversations continue among the men, the priests are also informed that Kichijiro’s whole family was murdered for confessing faith and that Kichijiro, himself, apostatized. When Rodrigues set out to look for more Christians and ultimately spread the Christian faith, he came across Kichijiro in the mountainside. Rodrigues claimed that Kichijiro “…followed after me like a wild dog” (77). Rodrigues was unaware at the time that this event with Kichijiro would lead him into his capture. Kichijiro was smart in playing his little “mind games” and ultimately “trapping” Rodrigues as he fed him dry fish. The dry fish left a dry feeling in Rodrigues throat that he said was “unbearable” (80), thus leaving him entangled in what I like to call it “Kichijiro’s evil”. Kichijiro is a betrayer as he led Rodrigues into his capture. It is evident that Kichijiro is a Christian, yet he sold Sebastian out for being a Christian… a true depiction of betrayal. After Rodrigues was seized, his disgust for Kichijiro grew as “…the tiny face of my betrayer was far in the distance. That face with its fearful eyes like a spider…” (83). The relationship between the two men is even associated and compared to the relationship between Jesus and Judas, as the words ‘What thou dost, do quickly’ are repeated many times and remain in Rodrigues head. Rodrigues strongly identifies with Christ, and he identifies Kichijiro with Judas, the betrayer of Christ. Towards the end of the story, the repeated cycle of actions of betrayal, apostasy, and confession seen with the character of Kichijiro is apparent and something that comes to quite disgust in my opinion. The parallels between Rodrigues and Kichijiro and Christ and Judas are strongly represented through the act of betrayal. Due to Kichijiro’s betrayal it sent Rodrigues to question his own faith and what he really knew about being a Christian.

Another very evident representation of betrayal in Silence is through apostasy, specifically when Rodrigues apostatizes. Although Rodrigues apostasy was only to save the lives of the people around him so that they would not suffer because of him, he betrayed Jesus. He lived up to Jesus his entire life and was even in Japan to spread Christianity, and yet he apostatized. It makes it seem as if the time he spent in Japan was for nothing and as a man who apostatized, he would be humified for the rest of his life. Although he hears the words of Christ before he steps on the fumie saying, “…Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross” (183), the betrayal of his own faith would be something Rodrigues would regret for the rest of his life. It would send him continuously questioning “Was it worth what I did?” No longer would he be seen as a priest, but instead as a betrayer and even “Apostate Paul”.

These various dimensions of betrayal are centered around beliefs and religion. Kichijiro’s betrayal regarding Rodrigues Christianity and Rodrigues stepping on the fumie to apostatize and ultimately betray himself and his own religion both reflect these ideas. Silence, showed that betrayal is difficult to escape especially with the conflicts between the Western, Christian culture and the Japanese, Buddhist culture.

Kichijiro’s Role

Kichijiro was one of the main characters in Silence. His role in the story was very strange but important for the story. Kichijiro is the one character in the story where his motives are not known. No one understands his actions but he teaches the characters and the readers a lesson.

At first, Garpe and Rodrigues do not know if Kichijiro is a Christian. While Kichijiro assists them on there journey to Japan, the mannerisms he gives off,  leads the Priests’ to believe there is no way he is a Christian.  The whole voyage he is coward up in a little ball nauseous and drunk. He offers no information about himself and does not help any of the crew members during harsh storms. When  asked if he is a Christian, Kichijiro immediately says he is not. When they arrive in Japan, Kichijiro admits that he is a Christian who apostatized to avoid persecution. When he admits this to the congregation of Christians and the Priests’ they are weary of his character but allow him to remain there because of his assistance. When the congregation is compromised by officials, Kichijiro apostasies again to save himself from suffering. Rodrigues cannot believe that a man with such characteristics could claim to be Christian. He finds Kichijiro annoying and untrustworthy.

Kichijiro tells Rodrigues he has found more Christians, and leads him right into  a trap. Kichijiro feeds Rodrigues dried fish and allows officials to take Rodrigues to prison. While Rodrigues is in prison, Kichijiro appears multiple times asking for forgiveness. Rodrigues is beyond annoyed with Kichijiro and wishes that he would just leave him alone. Rodrigues cannot wrap his brain around Kichijiro or his actions.

Rodrigues views Christians as superiors to others, he believes that they all act a certain way. The role of Kichijiro is to question Rodrigues as to what a Christian is. He is testing Rodrigues’s faith and patience. Kichijiro betrays his faith and Rodrigues several times. he denies the father when his life is in danger but immediately repents. Rodrigues has  a hard time with Kichijiro, because as a part of the Christian faith it is believed that Christians should lay down their sins and be forgiven. While on  the other hand he keeps denying his Christianity but keep coming back to it. Its like Kichijiro wants someone to tell him his actions are okay because he is trying to save his own life. His actions are not right though, because he is allowing his other fellow Christians to be harmed while he sits back unbothered.

I think Kichijiro was put in the story to show that sometimes the brave people lose and the cowards win. I think he also teaches a lesson that a Christian is not a perfect person with perfect traits. Christians make mistakes just like everyone else and they should not be thought of as better than others. I think it shows Rodrigues that pride is not the most important thing to have as a Christian, but faith is.

The Changing Face of Christ in Silence

When Sebastian Rodrigues comes to Japan in the beginning of the novel, he is full of anticipation and excitement for his mission. Rodrigues is eager to spread Christianity to the Japanese people, and he desperately longs for the glory that comes with it. Therefore, his positive mindset is reflected through his glorified view of the face of Jesus Christ at the start of the novel. However, as Rodrigues faces extreme suffering and persecution during his time in Japan, his vision of Christ begins to shift. Throughout the novel, we see Rodrigues’s changing physical and mental state reflected in his image of Jesus Christ.

As Rodrigues prepares for his upcoming journey to Japan in Chapter One, he begins to reflect on the image of Christ. At this point in the novel, Rodrigues is extremely arrogant and often compares himself and his sufferings to that of Jesus. For example, when he relies on Kichijiro to find them shelter when they arrive, he thinks of how Christ was often putting his fate in the hands of untrustworthy people. He wants to be loved and glorified like Christ was and he views his mission to Japan as a way to accomplish that. Rodrigues feels like he is this extremely important, heroic savior, and his view of Christ is therefore very similar. Rodrigues says that he is “always fascinated by the face of Christ just like a man fascinated by the face of his beloved.” His perfect view of Christ during this time causes Rodrigues to imagine him as this powerful, beautiful person.

Our next insight into Rodrigues’s view of Christ doesn’t occur until Chapter 4. At this point Rodrigues has now been in Japan for a while and he has been having a very difficult time. At first he stayed in a tiny village with minimal food and resources. However, word reached the Japanese that there were priests staying in the village and he was forced to go on the run and separate from the rest of his group. For days Rodrigues has wandered aimlessly. He is tired and hungry, and when he finally catches a glimpse of his reflection, a new image of Christ forms in his mind. Rodrigues says that “at that moment I thought of the face of yet another man. This was the face of a crucified man…” He still imagines him as very beautiful, but his image is shifting from a powerful, conquering Christ to a suffering, crucified Christ. This is a reflection of Rodrigues’s mental state at the time. He still has faith in their mission, but he is tired and worn down.

In Chapter Six, Rodrigues’s view of Christ changes yet again. Kichijiro has now betrayed Rodrigues and sold him out to the Japanese. Rodrigues is sitting in prison when Kichijiro shows up, begging for forgiveness. In his mind, Rodrigues pictures Christ’s kind, loving face and his “gentle eyes.” He no longer sees a suffering Christ, his image is now of a loving and forgiving man. In a time where he is being called to forgiveness, Rodrigues’s image of Christ shifts with him, reminding him of the person he needs to be.

In Chapter Eight we see Rodrigues locked up in a dark, narrow room. He is preparing for the worst as he has been informed that this will be the night that he finally apostatizes. In his solitude, Rodrigues once again imagines the face of Christ. He sees a face full of sorrow and he imagines that Christ speaks to him, saying “’When you suffer, I suffer with you. To the end I am close to you.’” Rodrigues once again sees a Christ that is in great pain. He sees a man that is suffering alongside himself and everyone else. This ties into Rodrigues’s own situation because the cries of the Christians getting tortured in a nearby room causes him to feel their pain along with them.

Later on in Chapter Eight, moments before Rodrigues gives in to the Japanese and reluctantly apostatizes, he sees a new image of Christ. From the beginning of the novel Rodrigues has fought hard to practice his Christianity and he has endured much suffering because of it. However, when the Japanese begin to torture other people because of his refusal to apostatize, Rodrigues is left with no choice but to betray his faith and step on the fumie. Rodrigues now imagines “the ugly face of Christ,” worn down and in despair with a crown of thorns around his head. He describes him as “sunken and utterly exhausted.” Rodrigues’s own suffering has caused his perception of Christ to shift into this suffering man, worn down from constant abuse. His time in Japan has allowed him to truly understand all the pain that Jesus went through, greatly altering his view of the man.

We get one last glimpse into Rodrigues’s view of Christ in Chapter 10. Rodrigues now lives in Japan as an apostate, stripped of his priesthood. However, even though he is no longer able to practice his Christianity, his faith is still strong. While reflecting on his choice to apostatize, Rodrigues once again pictures a kind, loving Christ. He describes Christ as having the “best and most beautiful face that any man can ever know…” Rodrigues imagines Christ’s kind eyes urging him to step on the fumie and he feels that he would’ve wanted him to apostatize. Now that he has apostatized and is living in Japan, Rodrigues finally comes to terms with his decision. He has greatly struggled with his choice to apostatize, but he truly feels that Christ would have supported his decision, something that is reflected in his final image of Christ.

As can be seen, Rodrigues’s vision of Christ has been greatly altered throughout the novel. His view of Christ is for the most part a reflection of his own condition. When the novel starts Rodrigues is very hopeful for his journey and his view of Christ is a man who is beautiful and perfect. However, as Rodrigues endures extreme suffering, he begins to see a sad, defeated Christ. His faith in Christ doesn’t falter, but he no longer sees him as this beautiful, perfect being. As Rodrigues undergoes changes in his own life, his understanding of Christ changes with him.

The Faith of Kichijiro

Kichijiro was a very interesting human being and is very hard to understand. One moment you think that he is devoting the rest of his life to the lord and the next he is cowering in a corner of self pity resenting the past. The role of Kichijiro in this novel, is to provide an in depth character that furthers the thoughts and actions of Sebastian Rodrigues.

Kichijiro is first introduced in the novel when the three priests arrive at Macao. He is seen huddled up in a corner and protests wildly that he is not a Christian. Little did Rodrigues know, Kichijiro would be the very thing that turns the tide of the battle within his own mind. Throughout Silence, we are introduced to Kichijiro’s backstory and why he claims not to be a Christian but practices Christianity. He sacrificed his own morals and watched his family die, all to save his own life. He stepped on the fumie, with little hesitation. He seems to regret stepping on the fumie and reconciles with Father Rodrigues, but proceeds to step on it again and the cycle continues. This cycle of self defiance intrigues the priests. They have had a drastically different upbringing compared to the Japanese Christians and one could say that the Japanese love for Christ is greater than even the fathers’. But where does Kichijiro fall in this category of Japanese Christians. The so called “true Christians” died for their God and their religion while Kichijiro continuously took the cowards way out. Although resentment is all that is received by Rodrigues at first, the persistence seen to keep up with Christian ways intrigues Rodrigues. Kichijiro helps to open his mind to other possible ways of loving Christ while in this swamp of a country. The longer Sebastian Rodrigues was in Japan, the more and more open minded he became with traditional teachings and practices of Japan. Kichijiro’s motives confused Rodrigues and in order to try and understand them, he had to open his mind or else they would not make sense. Endo writes, “The priest was perplexed. Why did this fellow [Kichijiro] who betrayed him come following after him in this way?” Time and time again, Kichijiro would find a way to disappoint the father, whether it was denouncing Christianity or betraying the faith or even betraying Rodrigues himself, but he persisted. He followed Rodrigues until his untimely death, as if the priest was the only tether holding him to his own faith. Kichijiro’s hope and faith in Christianity had been reignited when he met the priests and he fears that if he loses sight of what truly made him feel Christian again, than he may lose his faith and courage forever. After thinking about it, Rodrigues came to this very conclusion. You can still love Christ and disrespect him, for he died for their sins. He was to follow Christ after all his mistakes, just as Kichijro followed the priest. He was an important stepping stone for Rodrigues and led him to complete his character arch.

I do not think that Kichijiro can teach the reader anything positive, but it is his situation that readers can take advice from. He was a lowly, cowardly man who denounced his very lord multiple times in fear of death, but he never gave up. He never stopped believing in a higher power, he never stopped hoping that he could change. If there was one word to describe him, it would be persistent. He followed Rodrigues and got him captured, he followed the priest to the boat, he followed him on the way to Nagasaki, he even followed Rodrigues until he himself was caught with Christian symbols. I think what can be learned from his persistence is that if he truly did not love Christ and wanted to be a Christian, he would not have gone that far. The reader should devote their life to Christ in this way or whatever other religion they so choose. Its a very fitting ending in that the very thing that made Kichijiro a coward, is what got him killed in the end. Holding on the his Christian beliefs for the first time in is life, and I think he finally feels whole. This is a lesson that the reader must take from this character. Do not be afraid of repercussions if the acceptance helps you become whole.

Kichijiro gets too much hate in Silence for simply being exactly what Endo wanted him to be. A perfect catalyst for the development of Rodrigues and a guiding tool to help the reader better understand the culture and to better understand themselves. He was the perfect character to help Rodrigues along his journey and to help him truly become who he needed to be.

4. Is Rodrigues Right or Wrong to Trample on the Fumie? Why?

     Trampling the fumie was, in fact, the right decision  ––  at least in Rodrigues’s case. The factors leading up to this is crucial as it provides an insight into his struggles, both internal and external. Apostatizing gives a positive result on his faith as well as for Japan. 

     If Rodrigues trampled on the fumie, it would mean betraying everything he had ever known. As a priest, his faith was the most important thing, and to trample meant to give up. At the same time, though, Rodrigues was more of a Christian after trampling the fumie than he had ever been before. The interpreter calls his mission a “selfish dream” that could be true based on his thoughts and actions (157). Though Christian missionaries normally have good intentions, Rodrigues had a different reason in trying to spread Christianity. At least for Rodrigues, it may have been a little selfish and geared towards honor and pride. He never really understood the Japanese people, and never attempted to really learn about them, their culture, and their ways.

      Rodrigues had a certain view on what it meant to be a “proper” Christian, and this affects him throughout the entirety of the novel. Upon meeting Kichijiro, he immediately dislikes him and can not stand him. He observes Kichijiro’s nature and refuses to believe that a “coward” like him could be of Christain faith (24). Rodrigues has this sense of pride towards himself as a Christian, and especially as a priest. His “self-respect” and “priestly sense of duty” are what stops him from fleeing multiple times (65). This is where the theme of glory and honor comes into play, as he tells himself he would never apostatize and would rather die a martyr than give up his faith. He constantly refers to the Japanese in a condescending way, comparing them to animals and “beasts” (38). Their faces blur together, their names are complicated, and they are simply “ignorant peasants” (31). 

     He criticises the Japanese Christians in their methods of practicing the religion and believed there was only one way of doing it. In a way, (ding!) he kind of has a slight hero complex combined with a sense of superiority to the Japanese. He acts like without him they are “like a ship lost in a storm without a chart,” and he would be the chart (30). Rodrigues wants to be seen a certain way by the folks back home in Portugal, so the fact that the first several chapters are personal letters conveys a sense of the image he was trying to be perceived as. 

     Coming into the mission, he recounts all the previous priests like “Bishop Cerqueira” and proceeds to list various names of those before him (23). When he first talks about Ferreira and explores the possibilities of what could have happened to him, and suggests Ferreira “won a glorious martyrdom” (12). Rodrigues slightly glorifies the mission as sort of a great adventure. 

     Rodrigues needed this apostatizing more than ever to strengthen his faith, however ironic that may be. He had always been surrounded by those that were similar to him in person and in faith. He grew up and learned for many years with priests, Christians, and the Church. God had always been by his side, but by going into a new, foreign country, everything was different. In the midst of all his suffering and God’s “silence,” his own faith began to falter (72). It began to become not just a crisis in his faith, but a crisis in his identity as well, as the world around him was so drastically different from what he was used to. 

     He himself is aware that the words he prayed held no meaning other than empty words. They were no other than for, again, his “priestly duty” (175). He resented Kichijiro due to his cowardice, yet he still goes through the motion. Rodrigues is aware of this and is consumed with “shame” as he could not bring himself to forgive Kichijiro after his betrayal (125). Rodrigues constantly compares himself to Christ and tries to love Kichijiro, because it is what Christ would do, but it is hard to love someone who disgusts him. 

     In contrast, Garrpe is portrayed as a true martyr. While much of his thoughts are not revealed, it is he who sacrifices his life for the apostatized Japanese Christians, and not Rodrigues. Inoue mentions how the Japanese are “laying down their lives” for Rodrigues when it should have been the other way around (145). 

     Rodrigues’s name is first directly stated in narration on page 152 when he meets Ferreira. He had previously only been referred to as “the priest,” so this could have been a sign of Rodrigues finally taking a step back and looking at the situation as Rodrigues himself, not just as a priest. Seeing Ferreira’s current apostatized state makes him truly reflect. 

     Though he despises the idea at first, apostatizing gives Rodrigues a chance to truly save lives and finally do something. It did not matter that those Japanese Christians had apostatized, it was Inoue’s goal to get Rodrigues, a priest, to do so. Rodrigues compares himself to Christ multiple times, especially towards the end. Although Rodrigues does not physically suffer like Christ, the action of him trampling on the fumie allows him to enter Christ’s sufferings as he gives himself up for others.  It is not his suffering that gets him, but the suffering of others and knowing that he was the cause of it that convinces him to apostatize. Rodrigues would have much rather been tortured for his faith than to live lavishly and see others tortured for him, and he awaits his torture but it never comes. 

     Christ breaking his silence for the first time also has a great impact on Rodrigues in the moments before the trample. He believes then it is the right thing to do, as Christ says “Trample!” (183). His faith is stronger now than ever before, as he loved the Lord “now in a different way from before” (203). 

     Ultimately, trampling the fumie was the correct decision. If not for the salvation of Rodrigues faith, for the country of Japan. Inoue may have been cruel and a master manipulator, but he did hold some truth to a certain aspect. Christianity had thrived in Japan for many years, and it continued to flourish, even without priests. For Rodrigues, the mission wasn’t so much for others, but for himself, so trampling the fumie was actually a form of sacrifice for the greater good. He gives everything up to the Japanese, and by doing that, the Japanese and the Japanese Christians are finally free from persecution. Although they would still have to remain hidden, the persecution finally stops.

In a way, Kichirjiro’s struggles are just like ours.

            The character of Kichijiro is one of the main supporting roles throughout Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence. Besides the priests, his character arc is the most challenging throughout the novel. Kichijiro is often at odds with Rodrigues and/or Garrpe, shrinking physically and spiritually when met with a challenge. But by the end of the novel, he turns into the character that has grown the most in his beliefs. This can symbolize a multitude of ideas, but mostly, our Christian walk with the Lord.

               We first meet Kichijiro as the priest’s leader for their journey to Japan. On the boat ride over, he constantly is throwing up or making some kind of noise. Quite quickly, he begins to bother the priests. Garrpe questions him on his faith, but Rodrigues considers it to be completely out of the question. He believes that a man such as him can have no connection to the Lord (19). I believe that this is a very bad way of thinking. If we were to judge faith solely based on people’s characteristics or physical strength, many of us would be written off completely. For example, when my grandfather was in the hospital for cancer, he was so physically weak, that he could not do hardly anything for himself. Despite his circumstance, he did everything that he could have to grow in his faith. He prayed every day, even if that is the only thing he did. The strength of a person does not signify their faith, but the strength of their heart does. There is only one person who can judge our heart: Christ himself.

               Unfortunately, Kichijiro is not strong of heart. The reader later finds out that he not only apostatized, but he watched his entire family die in the process (50). This is not the only case of Kichijiro apostatizing when under pressure. In my opinion, I think it is reasonable for him to have renounced the virgin in front of the guards, but the man could not even process his faith in the presence of two priests. This shows his utter fear in faith and the lack of confidence in himself. However, even after apostatizing multiple times, he has the audacity to act proudly with the arrival of the priests (53). He does not act humbly when they proclaim him as a hero in their village. He does what almost every other person would do and sucks up the praise for himself.

               Arguably, the biggest part of the novel is when Kichijiro betrays Rodriguez. He does in a very strategic way as well. He puts Rodriguez in a state of need and betrays him at a time when he cannot do anything. It is obvious that Kichijiro planned it. Yet, he still begs Rodrigues for forgiveness many times after doing so (103). Rodriguez accepts, but then Kichijiro apostatizes again and again. Whenever he is in good standing with the Lord, he does not seem to stay there. However, by the end of the novel, he professes his faith louder than Rodriguez or Ferreira. At the end of his life, when a found Christian relic is found in his possession, he is questioned, and never heard about again (263).

               Kichijiro represents many of our Christian walks with God. Even though we spend our entire lives trying to be like Christ, we will never succeed. We are weak when faced with temptation or a struggle, but proud and righteous when faced with a glimpse of success. We lie to get ahead, but eventually, we will learn to overcome it. One day, we will take all past sins and repent them before we join Christ. That is the role Kichijiro plays in the novel. He is almost like a mirror for the reader to witness. We are not even close to being perfect, but because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, we do not have to be.

               I do not really believe that Kicihijiro teaches Rodriguez much throughout silence. However, Kichijiro does show Rodriguez a picture of outward struggle, rather than holding it in as he does. Rodriguez comes into the novel proud. He believes that to the people of Japan, he is their Christ figure. While he emulates that to them outwardly, his heart is not in right place at all. Christ was free of judgment, and judgment seems to be the only thing that Rodriguez has. He constantly berates the village people along with Kichijiro as well. He assumes because he does not understand them, that they are less than he is. However, on the inside, he is constantly questioning his faith and purpose. While he might be weak, Kichijiro never holds that inside himself. He shows his questioning faith and struggles to others constantly throughout the novel. Once Rodriguez voices his weakness, his heart seems to change. After he apostatizes, he recognizes that they are more alike than he previously imagined (235).

               Kichijiro teaches the reader about growing faith. Unlike most of the characters in this novel, his faith seems to only grow by the end of the novel. Even with his many mistakes, he finds what his true purpose should be. He dies doing the only thing he never did in the past: he does not apostatize. This can be inspiring to a reader in a book so bleak. Many times in our life we struggle and hide, but we can continue to grow in our faith throughout the hardest events. Our faith is not supposed to be a straight path, but a mountain we must climb every day. This is shown by the character arc of Kichijiro. Kichijiro might have the hardest journey but, in a way (wink), he has the most peaceful outcome.

Ultimate Betrayal

Betrayal is commonly depicted in Shusaku Endo’s novel, Silence. Endo effectively explores this idea in various ways. The idea of betrayal progresses the novel’s plot by subtly creating tension amongst the characters and creating a level of internal conflict amongst them as well. The theme of betrayal is clearly seen through Kichijiro’s betrayal of Rodrigues, Rodrigues’ betrayal of his religion, and “God’s betrayal of the Christians.”

In Silence, Kichijiro exhibited betrayal many times. Kichijirio’s first offense of betrayal is when he apostatized. This first action is the start of Kichijiro’s persistent betrayal towards others in the novel. Garrpe questions Kichijiro’s religion by stating, “Well, anyhow you are a Christian, aren’t you?” Kichijiro responds by saying “I’m not” (Endo 16). This early deceit extends throughout the novel and is a defining characteristic of Kichijiro. As the novel progresses, Kichijiro goes on to betray Sebastian Rodrigues. As Rodrigues left the small Japanese community that he resided in, Kichijiro found him. After talking to one another for a while Rodrigues noticed “the sound of footsteps” (82). Rodrigues recounted that “Men… made their way through the bushes” and “…the men were seizing me and dragging me to my feet.” Furthermore, Rodrigues explains, “…the tiny face of my betrayer was far in the distance. That face with its fearful eyes…” (83). Despite Rodrigues’s initial weariness of Kichijiro, he still conversed with him on his journey. Kichijiro used this as an opportunity to have Rodrigues captured. Ultimately, Kichijiro betrayed Rodrigues’ trust. Due to Kichijiro’s constant deception, he often resonates with a perpetual feeling of guilt. After betraying the Christian, Kichijiro pleaded, “Father, forgive me” (83). In this moment of the novel, Kichijiro feels automatic guilt regarding his actions and he recognizes his fault; however, he fails to truly realize the extent of his actions and continuously tries to gain a sense of forgiveness from Rodrigues. This is seen as Kichijiro visits Rodrigues. Rodrigues raises the question, “Why did this fellow who betrayed him come following after him in this way?” (105). In all, Kichijiro continuously turns to betrayal, but he ultimately struggles with the guilt that coincides.

Once Rodrigues was captured, he was pressured to apostatize. If he failed to do so, then it would result in the suffering of others. However, due to Rodrigues’ duty as a priest, apostatizing would be a betrayal of his religion and those that look up to his preachings. Ultimately, Rodrigues ends up apostatizing because if he did not the “peasants cannot be saved” (180). Rodrigues turns to this excuse as a valid reason for the betrayal of his faith. In order to save the peasants, Rodrigues apostatized which then leads to him trampling the fuime. This action is recounted by stating, “He will now trample on what he has considered the most beautiful thing in his life…The priest placed his foot on the fuime” (183). At this moment in the story, Rodrigues betrays the faith that he has devoted his life to. Apostatizing is a betrayal and denouement of religion; however, some deem it necessary because individuals, including themselves, suffer as a result of worshiping Christ. Additionally, Ferreira goes on to make a preposterous claim; he states, “For love Christ would have apostatized. Even if it meant giving up everything he had” (181). Rodrigues is overcome with emotion over this statement and his guilt begins to prevail. Similar to Kichijiro, Rodrigues’ guilt is a burden; however, he tries to convince himself that what he has done is justifiable. Rodrigues explains, “I thought that if I apostatized those miserable peasants would be saved. Yes, that was it” (186). In this form of betrayal, Rodrigues tried to rationalize his decision to apostatize. Overall, Rodrigues denied his faith in a way that depicts “the ultimate betrayal.” While he went to Japan with the purpose of spreading the Gospel, he ultimately turned his back on Christ despite his intention of “saving” the Christians.

Another form of betrayal presented in the novel is that, in a way, the Christians felt betrayed by God. God’s “silence” is often referred to in the novel and the Christians continuously expressed that they lacked his presence in their times of suffering. The question, “Why is God continually silent while those groaning voices go on” (180) is mentioned in the story. Additionally, Ferreira expressed that, “ I was put in here and heard the voices of those people for whom God did nothing” (179). The silence that is mentioned refers to God not responding to the Christians’ prayers and cries for help. Characters such as Ferreira feel betrayed because God does not seem to be answering their prayers. Before Garrrpe’s death, he exclaimed, “Lord, hear our prayer…!” (143). Individuals are suffering and none of their pleas for saving are being acknowledged. Rather than using this as a trial to strengthen their faith, it oftentimes has shown to weaken their trust in God and leads them to apostatizing. When referencing Garrpe’s drowning and the deaths of other Christians it is claimed that “God simply maintained his unrelenting silence” (147) and they ultimately begin to question His existence, “Did God really exist?” (148). The Christians repeatedly question how could God watch as they are tortured and not free them from their misery. Moreover, the Christians feel as if all their praise for God has brought along  nothing but tribulations. While they are depending on God for deliverance, the persecution never stops. The Christians interpret their sufferings as a letdown and betrayal from God.

Betrayal takes shape in a multitude of ways throughout Endo’s Silence. The prominence of this theme in the novel extends from character to character and reflects an unfortunate commonality that is shared. While betrayal is frequently observed between individuals, it is also explored in the novel as an action taken against religion or beliefs. Also, the characters in the novel often felt that they were being betrayed by God due to his “silence.” In all, the various betrayal presented in the novel played a key role in developing the narrative.

And you call yourself a Christian?🤨

Silence raises several questions, one being: Was Rodrigues right or wrong to trample in the fumie? The statement “no matter what, under no circumstances, deny God” has played a major role in my life. For 15 years, I was rooted in the Christian faith which influences one’s opinion regarding the situation in the fumie.

To begin with, Rodrigues is known to justify any action so it cannot be reflected as denial or flawed. The trip to Japan did not have any intention to spread the gospel; instead, it was a trip to go on a search for Father Ferriera. To me this was the very first mistake that is displayed. A missionary does not go to a third world country to look for friends, but instead to spread or plant the gospel under the foreign circumstances because that is what God commands Christians to do. Throughout the novel, Rodrigues displays various flaws which are concerning to be a Christian, and even worse, an authority in Chrisitianity. Growing up, there has been a saying: “When God is silent, He’s doing something for you.” Although the trip was a painful experience for Rodrigues, he, as a Priest, should know that the life of a true believer of God is not easy. Which in my opinion does not help with the possibility that Rodrigues should have the slightest mercy for the action of trampling on the face of Jesus. Furthermore, to degrade the audience’s sympathy for Rodrigues, the book gives an extraordinary example of a better Christian than this so-called Priest Rodrigues. In chapter seven, the author gives a vivid description of the torture that Garrpe undergoes. Father Garrpe is being told to apostatize in order to prevent three Japanese Christians from drowning like stones. However, Father Garrpe is a better example than Father Rodrigues because he “rushed forward and, raising both arms, had plunged from the shore into the sea” (Endō 143). This is a prime example of how actions speak louder than words. Garrpe refused to apostize which would result in living an empty life because all his time and effort as a Priest would simply be nothing. Therefore, Garrpe dying alongside the Japanese Christians reveals that a martyr’s death means more than an empty life. This is a statement which Rodrigues did not fully comprehend.

Up until the chapter of the fumie, Father Rodrigues has not shown any actions to be denied mercy until the act of trampling. I personally think that his past flaws have piled up against the opinion of one if Rodrigues was right or wrong to trample in the fumie. The statement from Father Ferriera that “Christ would certainly have apostatized to help men” (181) and the fact that Father Rodrigues took this into consideration worsens the case. Lets take in consideration Matthew 4,  where Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights, which was an incentive for Satan to temptate Jesus. Satan tries to make Jesus use his powers to fulfill man’s desire or weakness by trying to get Jesus to turn stones into bread. Yet, the response Satan received was that “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The following two temptations were that Jesus should throw himself and that His angels were going to bring him up, and that He should bow down to Satan. Jesus did not fall for either of the three temptations which causes this so-called Father Rodrigues to be wrong for trampling on the fumie. The idea that Christ would have apostatized to help man is deranged. Satan, is a fallen celestial being created by God, is not any different than men who are also God’s creation. Therefore, why on Earth would God apostatize for men’s sake if He did not bow down to Satan. Crazy. Furthermore, it is true that Christ came to be trampled on but as a token of His Love for us. His death was to take the burden of our sins which saved humans from eternal death and gave us eternal life. Therefore, when Father Rodrigues apostatized to save the Japanese Chrisitans from the pit, (let’s not forget they had already apostazie) he did the complete opposite of what God did. Father Ferriera tries to justify his actions by saying God is justice, goodness, and love is simply bull. People can argue that the apostasy of this so-called Priest was justified because it proceeded from a good intention but such a thing isn’t true. Publicly repudiating one’s Faith,  even to save the lives of others is not acceptable for a believer of God. Regardless of Father Rodrigues intentions to save those people, apostasy is apostasy.

Perhaps my view on Rodrigues trampling on the fumie could have been different if he did not accept the offers that came along with trampling. For example, he took a new name, a Japanese name, a very nice house and a wife. If this man did not take those offers for apostazing, then I would have a little bit of sympathy for him yet this was not the case. He took the offers, therefore, meaning he denied his Faith in public for the materials of the world. In other words, he gave up his eternal life for the things like wealth, shelter, power, and family that the world provides. Although some may not agree with my argument, I feel like if I wrote this prompt in favor of Rodrigues actions being ‘right’, I’m supporting that apostazing is correct because of the ‘intentions’, which does not correspond with my Faith.

 

“O lantern, bye-bye-bye / If you throw a stone at it, your hand withers away.”

In the novel, there is a  repetition of the song lyrics, “O lantern bye-bye-bye if you throw a stone at it withers away O Lantern,bye-bye-bye, If you throw a stone at it withers away”.When I first noticed the repetition of these lyrics from chapter 7 throughout the rest of the novel  I knew that it had to have some meaning behind it. What I realized however was that the song really could pose a variety of meanings. For example, the throwing of the stone could represent the planting of Catholics beliefs in Japan that Inoue refers to as a swamp. The throwing of the stone is like the Portuguese Catholics trying to spread their beliefs in Japan. In this case, the hand withering away could represent how Rodrigues and Ferrieria suffered as they came to Japan to spread their Catholic beliefs. The withering away could symbolize how Rodrigues and Ferrieria suffered at being held in prison and tortured because of them trying to spread their beliefs. Also, the hand withering away could represent the Japanese Christians that suffered because of Rodrigues and Ferrieria coming to Japan. Rodgriues in him coming to japan had affected the lives of Christians like the people of Tomogi whose village was raided to find him. Also, Rodrigues being held captive at Nagasaki, Christians had been suffering in the pit unless he apostatized. So in various situations, Rodrigues could be seen as accountable for the misfortunes that were caused to these Japanese people .  The hand in this situation is sort of how stands for the Japanese people who suffered for Rodrigues in order to achieve his goals. The Lantern and the stone could also be symbolic of how Rodgriues sort of carelessly and disrespectfully tried to spread Catholic beliefs in Japan. It can be seen early into the novel that at first Rodgirues didn’t respect the people of Japan at all and even saw himself as superior to them. This can be seen by the various language that is used such as comparing the Japanese to things like “wild dogs” and children. Rodrigues even goes as far as to refer to the houses of the people inTomogi as “dog-kennels” Another example of him not showing any respect towards the Japanese is in the way he fails to mention the Japanese Culture until he had written his fourth letter. In a way, the harshness of throwing a stone at something like a lantern represents how  Rodrigues had lacked at first true compassion and understanding of the Japanese so his hand withered away. Something else the hand withering away could represent is the ultimate sacrifice he makes at the end of the novel. Rodrigues in a way loses his life for the Japanese Christians because of him apostatizing so the hand withering away could represent his fate at the end of the novel. As for the lantern it represents the lives of the Japanese people for who he makes the ultimate sacrifice. The phrase “lantern bye-bye could also represent the light of Christianity in Japan the way that Rodrigues and other Portuguese Catholics viewer it. Rodrigues’s purpose in coming to Japan was to help the light of Christianity not go out because of the persecution they faced and the apostatizing of Father Ferriera. However, just like an undying lantern, this isn’t the case since they were to be reported underground Christians lying in Japan during the time and in recent date being close to 2 million Christians still living in Japan. There have also been various instances in the Bible where Christians were persecuted but that never lead to the light of Christianity dying out. Therefore in the phrase where the throwing of the stone at the lantern makes your hand wither away is how trying to help Christianity in Japan when it is already thriving only leads to Rodrigues’s’ life being taken away (not literally). This also arises the idea of imposing beliefs on others because of pride. Sometimes we can become too prideful like Rodrigues in a sense to where we assume that our way is better and that not only leads misfortune upon others but misfortune upon ourselves. That is why I think Christians should try to work towards not being prideful because when we are not prideful and seek to under others is when we can truly make a positive impact.

Who’s Your Kichijiro?

     When we are first introduced to Kichijiro, he is not illuminated in the best light to say the least. He is painted as a shady, untrustworthy, alcoholic who really can not be trusted. The priests are automatically suspicious of him when he seemingly displays a distaste for Christianity. Later, we find out that this look was due to the guilt he had felt from his actions in the past. Kichijiro was once a man of Christian faith, but when Japan began the persecutions and executions of Christians, he denied his faith so that he could avoid being killed. Being in the presence of strong Christian figures most likely made that guilt even more prominent. 
     Despite his hidden strengths and beliefs, Kichijiro really was sort of a coward at heart. Rodrigues has little tolerance for this, hence his nearly instant dislike for him. I believe that this hatred he projected at Kichijiro was misplaced, however. Mayhaps the unpleasant traits he saw in Kichijiro were a reflection of the things he subconsciously disliked about himself. It is common for people to do this even today. This provided Rodrigues with a chance to learn more about himself and explore his inner struggles and emotions. 
     Kichijiro is related a lot to Judas, the companion of Jesus who eventually betrayed him in the end by assisting in the capturing of him. At first, Rodrigues used this comparison as a reason to support his hatred for Kichijiro. Later though, when he gets to know this man who he has grown to despise in every way, he finally understands where the fear and cowardness comes from. Staying faithful to a religion or anything when your life is on the line is a difficult choice to be bestowed upon someone, and many people would choose to live another day at any cost. Rodrigues recognized that Kichijiro was only a man, a human, who only had so much strength when it came to resisting people who were in earthly power. When he discovers this empathy, it deepens his connection with the Lord because even though Judas forsook Jesus in the end, Jesus continued to how him unconditional love and understanding. 
     But what did Kichijiro teach the audience? Personally, I believe his display of weakness and anxiety was more so a display of vulnerability. We all would like to think that if our faith in something we firmly stood for put us in a life-or-death situation that we would react as bravely as Rodrigues did. That just isn’t the case for most people though because, again, we are only human. If you believe in Christian teachings, you know that God made man in his perfect, imperfect image. What I mean by that is, God knew that we would be faced with trials that challenge us, some more so than others. He knew that there would be times where our worry and fear would get the better of us. It happens to all of us and we see it happen to other people every day. It isn’t our place to judge others when they struggle and fall though because we don’t know the pain and depth of things they may have faced in their pasts. 
     We were put here to share our love and encouragement with people who need it and those who may even not. It is easy to label a person as weakling or – excuse my language – shitty person when we are only able to see their surface level. Kichijiro is a prime example of this. I for one did not like him at all when we first began reading Silence, and I was not even a big fan of him nearing the end. But his character taught me to show others patience and kindness regardless of how they behave. That doesn’t mean people do not deserve to be held accountable for their negative actions but hating them for it will not provoke a positive change. 
     If you are Christian, then you know using the Lord’s word as a weapon against others completely contradicts everything he teaches. Doing that puts you at a level that is just as bad as the person you are targeting. I think we all have a Kichijiro in our lives. That one person who just annoys us when they simply blink the wrong way. I implore you to analyze why that person bothers you so much. You may find out things about yourself and discover some unhealthy attitudes you project towards others as a result of your suppressed insecurities.

A shelter in the storm for Mr. Nigro's IB Seniors, assorted madmen, and garden variety fools

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