Silence' by Shusaku Endo: Summary Essay

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In God’s eyes, we are all thought of as His children, and like children we have differences. In a perfect world, there would be no reason for conflict, unfortunately, that just isn’t human nature. Because we carry the burden of sin, we have wars, we kill, and we are thrust into the pressures of persecution. These examples can be shown most directly through a fictional book with historical truths written by the author, Shusaku Endo. Endo uses his characters to tell a moving story about the struggles of a 17th-century world and the incompatibility of Western Civilization taking root in Eastern culture. In the grappling novel, Silence, Shusaku Endo explores the historical differences, misunderstandings, and conflicts between Western and Eastern peoples and cultures through European missionaries in Japan.

Shasuki Endo could have introduced the historical differences between Western culture and Eastern Heritage in various ways. Yet, out of all of his options, he chose to tell an intriguing story using religious indifferences, themes, and characters. Rodrigues was created, in part, as a character that embodies the representation of Western Europe’s struggle to assimilate into Japan. This is shown most rigorously through his personal struggle to adapt to such a different environment. Rodrigues, also known as “Western Europe,” is constantly contrasting himself to Kichijiro, whose purpose might be to represent “Eastern Culture.” Kichijiro is a true Judas of the book, Rodrigues even goes so far as to contrast himself to Kichijiro by comparing himself to Jesus. When reading, some might see the underlying superior and inferior vibe that is made when this happens. Though Rodrigues, known as West, thinks he’s superior to Kichijiro, known as East, in the end, he realizes that they are the same person, both Judas. One can’t help but feel that this is symbolic of the idea that quite possibly Shusaku Endo was hinting that the East and the West aren’t so different after all, we are all human of course.

Another key point of difference between Eastern and Western cultures is religion. An Eastern culture that is predominantly Buddhist, such as Japan, felt threatened by the stability of their country which led to the expulsion of Christian missionaries. While Eastern culture is infamous for attempting to spread their own cultures in beliefs, specifically Catholicism. Garrpe and Rodrigues go so far as to spread this belief that they go halfway around the world to give hope to the hopeless in an area where persecution is heavy.

Shusaku Endo’s major theme that pinpoints the differences would be the incompatibility of Christianity taking root in Japan. Incompatible to the point that even Western missionaries strong in their faith, such as Cristovao Ferreira, are led to fossilization. When Rodrigues is confronted with what seems like fruitless efforts in the inhabitable ground, he enters a downward spiral himself.

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As a reader, one might take a unique view of the misunderstandings between Eastern and Western cultures. One example of this would be the image of Jesus. This is shown through the transition of Rodrigues’ view of Jesus from living in one part of the world to the next. Father Rodrigues, at the beginning before he encountered a new culture, is “fascinated by the face of Christ just like a man fascinated by the face of his beloved” (1.50). He never endured the true gruffness of faith at times, all Rodrigues pictured was the beauty and grace behind Jesus. It’s evident that this image begins to disappear as his faith is tested. One could say the face of love had transformed into the face of silence for Rodrigues. Endo doesn’t stop there, he takes another dramatic change as he has Rodrigues see the face of Christ at the moment of renouncing his faith. This face that he once so admired for grace and beauty back in Western Europe, then silence, has finally transformed into the truer image of Jesus in the East. An image that is “worn down and hollow with the constant trampling” (8. 116). The reason why this image is so true is that Jesus is defined by the suffering he endured that allowed all of mankind's redemption. Shusaku Endo more than likely uses Rodrigues’ original, misunderstood viewpoints as an insight into all of Western Europe’s perspectives on the image of Jesus. This creates a misunderstanding of how to perceive Jesus between Western and Eastern cultures.

In Silence, we find a novel that not only deals with the cultural differences and misunderstandings between Western and Eastern cultures but the conflicts as well. This masterpiece covers the conflicts of persecution. These are problems that a 17th-century world had to endure as well as modern-day society. This novel also shows the inner conflicts between what is real and what is perceived. For example, most people view persecutors as someone evil with religious hatred, yet this isn’t always the case. We find in this novel the conflicting truth that those who do the persecuting are typically ordinary, even kind, men.

One example of this in Silence would be Inoue, he is oddly nice and appears to be a pleasant old man which is contradicting not only the Western European missionary's beliefs but the reader's as well. According to Litcharts, “Inoue’s conversations with Rodrigues suggest that the ruthless persecution of Christianity he orchestrates is not based in religious animosity, but national interests, which demonstrates that religious persecution may not be a matter of good versus evil or even one religion versus another, but rather an understandable fight to maintain one’s own culture and sovereignty” (Litcharts). This is another riveting conclusion to the underlying purpose behind the book Silence.

The esteemed author of Silence, Shusaku Endo, asks the most demanding of questions through the use of his novel that can only be found if one decides to read between the lines. For example, should Christians engage in a culture when that culture is foreign? It’s simply a complex question with many possible answers, and that is the beauty of this book. It’s clear to see that the purpose of Shusaku’s novel wasn’t to tell a moving story but to create an understanding for all of his readers about the misunderstandings, conflicts, and historical differences between Western customs and Eastern heritage.

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Silence’ by Shusaku Endo: Summary Essay. (2023, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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