Study and Discussion Questions for A Case of Conscience: Chapters 10-18 (105-231)

Book Two of James Blish's novel shifts the setting to Earth and the emphasis to the development of Chtexa's son as an expatriate Lithian evolving and developing into adulthood within Earth's Shelter Society as Father Ruiz-Sanchez attempts to resolve his crisis of conscience while fearing a Papal inquisition and his impending excommunication. As you read the novel's final nine chapters, consider some of the following issues:

  1. In Book One, set on Lithia, Ruiz-Sanchez and other characters referenced the Shelter cities and Shelter economy on Earth. While it was clear that Lithian society posed a contrast to the conditions on Earth, we were not provided sufficient information to precisely understand the state of Earth culture in Blish's 21st Century. Return to the references to Thorsten Veblen on conspicuous consumption (21) and to planned obsolescence (47) early in the novel and consider how these references prepared us for the Earth society depicted in Book Two. How would you characterize the daily lives of the majority of Earth's citizens?
  2. What elements of 1950s American culture are drawn upon by Blish to validate the creation of a shelter society? See pages 114-116.
  3. How does the Countess's decadent party depicted in Chapter Twelve prepare us for the Egtverchi inspired revolt later in the novel? Why does Blish create that party and depict Earth's upper classes in this way? Do the events of this party somehow justify Egtverchi's 3-V call for rebellion and the rejection of citizenship in the Shelter society? If so, does this somehow explain Ruiz-Sanchez's reluctance to perform the exorcism requested by Pope Hadrian VIII?
  4. When Ruiz-Sanchez, Michelis, Liu, and the Count contact Chtexa to ask him to speak with Egtverchi, Chtexa declares Egtverchi to be "ill" (205); what events earlier in Book Two prepare us to understand that Egtverchi is an improperly developed, perhaps emotionally disturbed Lithian?
  5. At novel's end, Ruiz-Sanchez finally does perform the exorcism. What, in your view, is he exorcising?Are Lithia and Egtverchi the objects of his exorcism, or does he come to believe that something or someone else is the implicit agent of the Adversary? Why does Ruiz-Sanchez begin to think of himself as a "demonolator"? (221).
  6. In the final analysis, does the novel pose a solution to the Problem of Evil? How is this issue addressed during Ruiz-Sanchez's audience with Pope Hadrian VIII (190-193)? Is the Pope's version validated by the novel's conclusion? Is Ruiz-Sanchez finally saved, and, if so, why does he grieve at the end? Can the references to Tannhauser assist us in understanding the Jesuit priest's final spiritual state?