The Contrasting Personalities of Father Jean Marie Latour and Father Joseph in Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

In Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, the contrasting personalities of Father Jean Marie Latour and Father Joseph complement each other and enable the men to accomplish certain tasks. Differences in the characters‘ personalities thereby drive the events of the novel. Latour is described as a man of gentle birth–brave, sensitive, courteous, He has an unassuming personality that allows him to deal with people in a gentle yet firm fashion, When speaking with Padre Martinez, Latour politely deals with his blasphemies in a gentle, yet firm mannerl When Martinez tells Latour of his disregard for celibacy in the priesthood, Latour replies, I shall reform these practices throughout my diocese.

,,I hope it will be but a short time until there is not a priest left who does not keep all the vows he took when he bound himself to the service of the altar, Latour quietly rebuffs Martinez without getting angry or losing his temper. That would have just infuriated Martinez, and would have caused numerous problems for Latour.

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In contrast to Latour, Vaillant is a very passionate man who is real, persistent, with the driving power of a dozen men in his poorly-built body, When Viallant knows what he wants, he goes after it. When he has his heart set on buying the mules, Contento and Angelica, he bargains with Manuelito Lujon until he has succeeded in buying them from him. Although Lujon had loved his mules, Vaillant‘s passionate, driving power makes him give them up without even a feeling of displeasure.

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He [Lujon] felt he had been worried out of his mules, and yet he bore no resentmenthather Vaillant had forced his hand, but he was rather glad of it. Vaillant’s persistence succeeds where Latour’s gentleness would have failed. Vaillant succeeds in buying two animals that serve both priests as companions for the rest of the novel.

Though Vaillant’s strong will often achieves his objectives, in the case of Dona Isabella, it is Latour’s gentleness that finally convinces the widow to reveal her true age to the court, Dona Isabella’s right to her husband’s inheritance has been challenged by her brother-in-law, who states that a 42-year-old cannot be the mother of his nieice. Whereas Vaillant soon lost patience and ordered Dona Isabella to reveal her age of 53, Latour calmly reasons with Dona Isabella and points out the disadvantages of being without an inheritance. While Vaillant glared down at her as if he could put common sense into her drooping head by the mere intensity of his gaze, Latour convinces the widow that the decision to cooperate is entirely her own, We must not press this any further, Latour states, We must leave this to Madame Olivares and her own conscience Dona Isabella, in turn, responds favorably. In all three cases, the persuasive abilities of both priests are needed to accomplish their desired goals. Had Vaillant been alone with Martinez, he would have lost his patience, just as he did with Dona Isabella. He would have caused trouble with Martinez, just as he would have been unable to convince Dona Isabella to reveal her age. Had Latour been alone at Lujon’s ranch, however, they never would have had capable mules to carry them throughout their diocese. The contrasting personalities of Latour and Vaillant help them to become successful missonaries in the Santa Fe Diocese. Had there been one without the other, many of their successes could not have happened.

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The Contrasting Personalities of Father Jean Marie Latour and Father Joseph in Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. (2022, Jul 07). Retrieved from

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