Example Essay on Silence by Shusaku Endo
In the book Silence we follow Father Sebastian Rodrigues, a portuguese Jesuit priest in the 1600’s. Who travels across the world with a fellow Jesuit priest, to do missionary work in Japan and to clear doubts in his mind about his former Teacher and Priest Ferreira who was allegedly tortured and renounced his Christianity after being captured by Inoue, a civil officer. We follow how the Japanese government has persecuted, tormented and blackmailed christians for following their faith.
This all stems from the fear of challenging old Japanese beliefs and that the Martyrs would be more faithful to Christianity instead of the government, giving the government less power and authority. Thus the government at the time used multiple terror tactics, propaganda, and rewards to get people on to their side. Which created an environment in which it was hard to trust anyone and the act of betrayal became common. In the end Rodriguez gets captured by government authorities through the betrayal of someone who he once trusted. Through these act of blackmailing, betrayal, torture and such to lead Rodriguez to renounce his faith.
The Japanese government would use many torture techniques to get any Christian they found on Japanese land to renounce their faith or die, they would also use this technique to showcase to others the power they had so that people would stay faithful to the government. This not only was effective but it helped remain the government's power and authority in Japan. In the book Silence, Priest Ferreira was sent to “ana-tsurushi'' or known as the pit. This is where they dug a hole a few feet deep and hung christians upside down with their feet and hands tied, for several hours. They were then lowered into the pit and closed off the top so no light would shine through.
They would lay upside down for hours without food and water, in complete solitude. This method was used to make people renounce their faith and worked in the favour of the government. "guards had come to search the village" (4.16) every while or so, most of the time samurai were leading these groups. They would search for any religious artifacts and seek out hidden christians. The ones found were either killed or taken away. When there was nothing found they would either leave peacefully or would “herd the peasants together in one place and declare that unless they made a clean breast of the whole thing a hostage would be taken.” (4.64).
The Samurai had power over who got to live and got to die so for anyone who spoke out against them would be the equivalent for them to be calling out for death. The priests got to witness second hand the power over lives that samurai had. When there was nothing to be found in the village and the guards gathered the peasants around, an old man named Jicama spoke out to them “We do not neglect to pay our taxes; and we do our duty to the state.” The Samurai pointed towards him and the guards tightly tied him up and attached him to the back of the horse where he was violently dragged as a hostage. This shows how people working under the government showed no mercy towards anyone, whether it would be an old man or a child. This is also another reason on how the Japanese government would use many torture techniques to remain in power. They controlled with fear and terror when they themselves were feeling fear and pressure.
Betrayal as a Theme
Betrayal was a recurring theme in the book as it showed different variations of betrayals that can occur. Ones between man and man, ones between beliefs and ideologies and even between religion and spirituality. Rodrigues was a man who observed, then acted. He met a cowardly Japanese man named Kichijiro who was a closeted Japanese Christian, In fact his whole family was Christian but he renounced his faith after him and his family was tortured.
When the Samurai came back a second time, he and two others were chosen as hostages and had to step and spit on a picture of Jesus, he was able to do it and was set free, but the two others were not and they were punished to cruel long lasting death. Rodriguez and his priest companion split due to the overwhelming amount of Christian hunts in the village which was putting locals in danger. The villagers drop Rodrigues off at a small island. He walks around for several days without finding anyone. He finds a hut when it is raining where he also finds Kichijiro, who begged for his forgiveness and wants to take Rodriguez to a village who he claims to be full of christians.
But Rodriguez was still quite suspicious as he “had heard previously that apostates were used as puppets by the government “ (4.95) and that there were also rewards given out to people who bring them Priests. Rodriguez was wary of Kichijiro and was always wondering whether or not he was going to betray him but after several days of Kichijiro following him and giving him food, Rodriguez finally decides to get rid of Kichijiro. But before he could do that, guards threw Rodriguez on the ground and then threw a couple of silver coins at Kichijiro. During this event Rodriguez compares himself and Kichijiro to Jesus and Judas. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 silver pieces and Kichijiro betrayed Rodriguez for silver pieces as well. The betrayal sent Rodriguez to a place of questioning of his faith and what he knew.
Much like betrayal, the blackmailing in the book also sends Rodrigues to question himself and the decision he made as a priest that led to the suffering of many innocent people. Before Rodriguez was thrown onto the ground by the guard, Rodriguez told Kichijiro “Please go away” (4.101) Kichijiro followed with some off putting question that made Rodriguez feel pity for him. “Father don’t you trust me? … No one trusts me.” (4.102)
Here Kichijiro was using a type of blackmail for need. He tries to make Rodrigues feel bad for him in order for him to stay where he was and to stay along with him so that when the guards arrive he would receive the reward. The guards then took Rodriguez to a camp where there were many captured Christians, where he met an old samurai, the same man who took Kichijiro as a hostage. He told Rodrigues “Apostatize! Apostatize!” (5.112) and made it clear that if he didn’t they wouldn’t kill or torture him. “It is because of you that they must suffer” (5.113) The samurai was blackmailing Rodriguez here by insinuating that if you don’t renounce your faith we will torture and kill all the innocent Christian lives in this camp. Rodriguez had to make a decision.
A few days pass by, and one of the Christian prisoners is murdered in front of Rodriguez. Few days later, Rodriguez meets his old teacher Ferreira, he explains that he willingly renounced his faith, this was hard for Rodrigues to hear. Ferreira explained that he had spent several days in the pit but it was the sound of innocent people’s suffering that finally broke him, and then explained that "Christ would have apostatized for them" (8.229). Rodriguez began to feel tormented, and then made the tough decision to renounce his faith.
The betrayals, blackmailing and the torture piled up within Rodriguez made him realize that if he went further with this innocent lives would have been taken. What Ferreira said was the truth that because of his resistance many innocent lives were killed. He finally realized the relationship between Jesus and his betrayer, even in his darkest moment, Jesus simply wanted his friend's suffering to end, no matter the cost. Thus causing him to renounce his faith for the suffering of his friends to end.