Written by me of course as a term paper, hopefully it can be of use to you guys.
In both Endo’s Silence and Dante’s Inferno the main characters struggle with why God does what he does. In Silence, Rodrigues struggles with God’s silence. The main characters develop in their understanding of God. In Dante’s Inferno, Dante struggles with God’s justice displayed in Hell. Dante comes to understand himself better through studying the story and suffering of the condemned souls in Hell. Rodrigues comes to know himself and the Lord better through the direct confrontation with the Japanese government and his trial with the fumie.
Rodrigues struggles with God’s silence throughout the book. He feels that whenever he needs to hear from God the most, God remains ever silent with his arms crossed. In one of Rodrigues’ most dire hours, he tries “repeating the prayer again and again he tried wildly to distract his attention; but the prayer could not tranquilize his agonized heart ‘Lord, why are you silent? Why are you always silent…?’” (Endo 92). Rodrigues is perplexed at why God keeps his silence when His intervention and assurance is most desperately needed. Throughout the book God breaks his silence but once, and that is when Rodrigues hears Jesus speak out from 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” (171). Rodrigues is told directly that he should trample upon the fumie, not to save the peasants, because that is Jesus’ purpose in carrying the cross. He does it not to save his own skin, unlike those in Japan would have done. Kichijiro fits what any normal Japanese would have done; he says “‘father, what can I do, a weak person like me? I didn’t betray you for money. I was threatened by the officials’” (114). When he says that he is a weak person, he is referring to when he succumbed to trampling on the fumie—he does it willingly without the intense inner reflection like Rodrigues—he also make an allusion to Judas when he says that he didn’t betray him for money.
In order to understand Rodrigues’ change in spiritual enviornment it is necessary to understand that the gap between the understanding of the Eastern world God and the Western world God had grown without the guidance of priests because of the persecution of the Christians. In the East, Inoue tells Rodrigues that even “From the beginning those same Japanese who confused ‘Deus’ and ‘dainichi’ twisted and changed our God and began to create something different… the Japanese did not believe in the Christian God but in their own distortion” (Endo 148). Rodrigues is reluctant to accept that “This country is a more terrible swamp than you can imagine. Whenever you plant a sapling in this swamp the roots begin to rot; the leaves grow yellow and wither. And we have planted the sapling of Christianity in this swamp… ” (148). Up until his apostasy he probably thought that Christianity had always withered solely because of the furious persecution by the government, but since his apostasy he realizes that Japan truly is a swamp. Yet “could one sacrifice not only one’s body, but one’s very moral integrity for the sake of others?” (Shusaku Endo: Criticism 4). Rodrigues Sacrifices his moral integrity so that some peasants can be spared from furthur bodily harm. When Rodrigues thinks of what he should do if he becomes a captive of the Japanese authorities. He thought that he would be the one braving the various tortures, but when he is forced to whatch others having to do so for his sake, he eventually gives in. He feels like he has been wading through the swamp untill he got so tired theat he just falls face first, but by falling in he has given up and now the guide can take over. His guide through the swamp of Japan is Jesus.
In both books the protagonists need God’s help to overcome some difficulty that they face. At the gate of the city of Dis Dante and Virgil are denied entrance, but shortly after there comes an angel for “I was now certain that he was sent from Heaven…”, and the angel said to those who kept Dante from passing “‘O Heaven’s outcasts, despicable souls,’…‘what insolence is this that breeds in you? / why do you stubbornly resist that will / whose end can never be denied…?’” (Alighieri IX. 85-95). God sent this angel to clear the way for Dante’s journey. He issues His will through his messenger the angel. Rodrigues is faced with the challenge of stepping on the fumie. Untill Jesus tells Rodrigues that stepping on the fumie is what must be done; he is unable to step on the fumie without questioning his conscience. Was God being just when he kept silent in Japan? Was He silent in the inferno?
Hell displays God’s justice and mercy. He did not force everyone to go into Heaven, rather He allowed them to reap what they had sown in their lives if they so chose. The entrance into Hell says, “Justice it was that moved my creator; / divine omnipotence created me, / and highest wisdom joined with primal love” (Alighieri III. 4-6). God’s whole reason behind creating Hell was justice. He created Hell so that those who wanted to bear the burden he was offering to take from them, they could. After passing the entry gate, they eventually reach a swamp called Styx. As they reach the shores of the swamp, Dante notices that all the souls there are eager to press on, so he asks his guide why. Virgil then tells him that “they want to cross the river, they are eager; / it is Divine Justice that spurs them on, / turning the fear they have into desire. / A good soul never comes to this crossing, / so, if Charon grumbles at the sight of you, / you see now what his words are really saying” (III 124-129). So this Justice that moved God to create Hell also moves in the souls who are descending into Hell, causing them to be eager for what is to come until doom is spoken to them when Charon says “…Woe to you, perverted souls! / Give up all hope of ever seeing Heaven: / I come to lead you to the other shore, / into eternal darkness, ice, and fire” (III 84-87). Charon only grumbles at ‘good’ souls, whereas the beasts on the hill in the first Canto turn away ‘bad’ souls. Since the begining of his journey he has changed enough so as to be recognizably good because Charon grumbles and tells him to go through some other port to reach the other side. Charon does not grumble at many, he usually ushers them over, and then other guardians guide them to lower circles.
Although God created and rules over Hell, Satan is the one who deceived them into joining him, and keeps the some sinners frozen at the bottom of Hell. As Dante nears the ‘windmill’ he sees through the fog he realizes that it is Satan, but, strangely, he has three heads and
Beneath each face two mighty wings stretched out,
The size you might expect of this huge bird
(I never saw a ship with larger sails):
Not feathered wings but rather like the ones
A bat would have. He flapped them constantly,
Keeping three winds continuously in motion
To lock Cocytus eternally in ice. (XXXIV 46-52).
All the souls in Cocytus are locked in the ice made by Satan’s tears and wind except the three he chews on. Rodrigues’ situation is quite similar with the exception that he undergoes mental, rather than physical, suffering.Williams describes Rodrigues’ mental torture as Rodrigues’ “willingness to cling to the vestiges of priesthood even following his public act of renunciation, may be the ultimate heresy, but to Rodrigues the reaction of his peers is now of little concern” (Williams 3). This meaning that Rodrigues would be scorned by all his contemporaries, but he does not care as much about what they think as he does about his personal devotion to God.
Dante and Rodrigues were persistently turning to sources other than God to solve their problem, but their search was fruitless until God guided them to the true tree of knowledge.It was the god that Rodrigues thought he knew that was silent. It was the God he was trying to learn more about that spoke out to him from the fumie. Dante knows that God is just in his ruling over Florence, but he did not know that so many of his Idols, Virgil and other poets and philosophers, are condemned. Both seek to learn in their uncorrected way of thinking and in that process God reveals to them how wrong they are. God developes each character’s perspective on His justice and lingeringing silence.
Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy: Volume 1 Inferno (Penguin Classics). New York: Penguin Classics, 2002.
Endo, Shusaku. Silence. Trans. William Johnston. 25th ed. New York: Taplinger Company, 1980.
“Sushaku Endo: Criticism.” 13 Mar. 1998. DISCovering Authors. Gale. Online. Feb. 2009.
Williams, Mark. “PowerSearch.” GaleNet. 04 Mar. 2009 .