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Death Comes for the Archbishop Research Papers

Research papers on Death Comes for the Archbishop delve into Cather's novel with a deeper understanding than just a simple plot narrative. Paper Masters can explicate the novel and explain why Cather focused on this unique topic in American Southwestern history.

In Will Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, the role of imagination in the founding of America is witnessed through the building of the Catholic Church in the Southwest. Throughout the novel, it is the dream of Father Latour and Father Vaillant that they bring something more to the citizens of the Southwest than simply a structured set of rules and morals through Biblical teachings. From the very beginning of the narrative, Father Latour makes known that there is something special he can bring to the Southwest beyond religion. Father Latour writes:

The Church can do more than the Fort to make these poor Mexicans 'good Americans.' And it is for the people's good; there is no other way in which they can better their condition.

Father Latour has far more than spiritual or religious designs on the people of the Southwest. Attempts to Americanize them is the true goal of the Fathers Latour and Vaillant and it is the American Dream that they serve, not necessarily spiritual designs or the Catholic Church. Death Comes for the Archbishop

Part of living life for Bishop Vaillant was life beyond the church. The natives of the Southwest taught him that their was something more than religious love and the experience of religion for spirituality. If not in the native’s rejection of Bishop Vaillant’s and the Archbishop’s Catholicism, it may have been the unwavering dedication of the natives to their land and culture that infiltrated the Bishop Vaillant’s mind and proved to him that as a “human creature”, there is connection with the self, the ego, that is powerfully spiritual in itself.


As far as “something” permanent in human experience beyond old age and death, Cather aptly illustrates that there is something more but it is far from clearly defined in the novel. The most that Cather spells out for the reader is found in the ending reflection of Bishop Vaillant:

During those last weeks of the Bishop's life he thought very little about death; it was the Past he was leaving. The future would take care of itself. But he had an intellectual curiosity about dying; about the changes that took place in a man's beliefs and scale of values. More and more, life seemed to him an experience of the Ego, in no sense the Ego itself. This conviction, he believed, was something apart from his religious life; it was an enlightenment that came to him as a man, a human creature.

In this reflection, Bishop Vaillant is clearly stating that there is something beyond religion and a “man’s beliefs and scale of values” that comes from human experience and living life to its fullest.

Father Latour never achieved the awakening that Bishop Vaillant experience, as evidenced in the following ways:

  • His building of the church symbolizes that he never moved beyond the Catholic Church nor did he truly search for “something more”.  For example, when Father Latour was in the cave with Jacinto, the spiritual nature of the natives frightened him and he referred to their rituals as “pagan” and barbaric.
  • Father Latour never moved beyond this opinion and thus, did not achieve the ability to recognize something more in the human spirit.

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