Reading Guide for A Canticle for Leibowitz


General Questions:


As you read, jot down 5-7 significant themes that occur throughout the text.



Describe the setting of the book.



What examples of loss of knowledge and cultural literacy can you find through the work?



Find at least ten references to ancient Greece or Rome in this work.



Fiat Homo


Chapter One:


Who is Leibowitz?


What mistake does Father Frances make when he sees the Fallout Survival Shelter?


Where is New Rome?


What role does the Church play in this society?


What is a “sport”?


How does the pilgrim behave towards Frances? Is he more or less intelligent than Frances?


Chapter Two:


What is Simplification? 


What did Leibowitz do for a living?


Chapter Three:


What is a succubus?


Chapter Four:


What evidence can you find of a class system in this work? 


Chapter Six:


How was the creation of atomic arsenals justified? 


When did the nuclear war occur? 


Why did the “Great Simplification” take place? 


Chapter Nine:


What objections does the Abbot have to building a printing press?


Chapter Ten:


Who are the “Pope’s Children?”


Chapter Eleven:


Does the Pope have any real power in this world?  How much does he know about the outside world? 


Fiat Lux


Chapter Twelve:


Has civilization begun to decline?  Or is it getting better?


What role does the Church play in society?


How long did Old Benjamin live and why?


Chapter Fourteen:


How does history repeat itself in this chapter?



Chapter Sixteen:


Why is Benjamin skeptical of the return of science and technology?


Chapter Seventeen:


How is the existence of the abbey being threatened?


Chapter Eighteen:


What threat does nuclear war present?


Chapter Twenty:


What threat does science present to society? 


What theory is Thon Thaddeo attracted to?  How will it change the value of his research?


Chapter Twenty-Three:


Do the characters in this chapter present a sense of optimism or do they feel pessimism about the future?


Fiat Voluntas Tua


Chapter Twenty-Four:


What is manifest destiny?


What attitude do the characters take towards technology? 


What were computers like when this novel was written in the 1950s? 


Chapter Twenty-Five:


What happens at the press conference?


Chapter Twenty-Six:


Why is the Church escaping into space? 


Chapter Twenty-Eight:


Who wins the debate over euthanasia and why?


Chapter Twenty-Nine:


How does the novel’s ending reflect its beginning? 


Is there hope for humanity at the end?