Black Robe Summary & Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 39-page guide for “Black Robe” by Brian Moore includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 12 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Cultural Differences and Colonialism and The Loss of Faith.
Black Robe is a 1985 historical fiction novel written by Brian Moore. It is set in the 17th century and tracks the journey of two Europeans—one of whom is a Jesuit priest—in New France. The two men find themselves caught between the two cultures shortly after the time of the first contact.
Father Laforgue awaits his orders from the Commandant of the new settlement of Québec, a small village that is home to around 100 Europeans. The Commandant meets with “the Savages,” the Algonkin people, and makes a deal to have Laforgue and his young assistant, Daniel Davost escorted to the distant Huron village of Ihonatiria. It is a journey to “almost certain death” (18). Daniel has secretly entered into a sexual relationship with an Algonkin woman named Annuka. Though he worries about whether he is still pure, he has been promised that he will be made a priest if he survives a year in Ihonatiria.
Neehatin, the leader of the Algonkin, and Chomina discuss the journey. In five canoes, 26 Algonkin and the two priests set out on the river. Laforgue’s mother believed that he would one day be martyred. He and Daniel have both learned the Algonkin language, but Daniel has a better understanding of their customs. Everyone sleeps together in cramped tents. Neehatin has a dream and consults his council on what it means. They paddle all day and rest at night. Laforgue awakes to find Daniel missing. He ventures out of the tent and sees Daniel and Annuka sleeping together. He masturbates and feels ashamed. Laforgue struggles to talk to Daniel about this the next day. The next night, Daniel vanishes again.
The Algonkin visit another people, allowing Neehatin to consult Mestigoit the sorcerer about his dream. Mestigoit says that Laforgue has a demon inside him and joins the Algonkin on their journey. Laforgue finds the sorcerer strange and annoying. That night, Laforgue argues with Daniel, who confesses to Annuka that he wants to run away with her. Arriving on the Isle of Dyes, the Algonkin wear snowshoes that Laforgue struggles to use. The Algonkin hunt and kill moose. Daniel and Laforgue argue again. The next day, there is another moose hunt, which ends in Daniel killing the animal. Chomina, Annuka’s father, congratulates him. They set off in the canoes, paddling through a blizzard. Laforgue has an ear infection and feels increasingly sick until the fever breaks. The Algonkin abandon Laforgue and Daniel at the foot of the rapids. They leave the men on the shore with canoes and supplies and paddle away. Daniel chases after Annuka, leaving Laforgue alone. Laforgue settles under the bough of a large tree and falls asleep.
Neehatin does not know what to do about Daniel. Chomina volunteers to take his family back and fulfill the agreement with the Europeans, taking Daniel with him. Annuka knows that she has fallen in love with Daniel. From beneath the tree, Laforgue watches as Iroquois men lay an ambush. He remains hidden when Chomina and his family arrive. They are captured by the Iroquois, as is Laforgue. After killing Chomina’s wife, the Iroquois take their prisoners to a different campsite. They torture the prisoners. They kill Chomina’s young son and cook his flesh, which they then eat. Later, Annuka seduces the guard and she, Chomina, Daniel, and Laforgue escape. They agree to go up the rapids, where the Iroquois do not travel.
They paddle hard for three days. Chomina becomes sick and dies in a clearing beside the river. Annuka tries unsuccessfully to convince Daniel to leave Laforgue. She agrees to go to the Huron village and marry Daniel. They meet French fur traders on the water and purchase supplies. They learn that they are near the Huron village but that many people have died from a sickness. The Huron have killed one of the priests. Near the village, Daniel and Annuka part ways with Laforgue, allowing him to enter the village alone and thus fulfill Neehatin’s prophecy.
In Ihonatiria, Father Jerome mourns the loss of his fellow priest. Jerome has suffered a stroke and is increasingly immobile. Laforgue arrives, and the villagers avoid him. He talks with Jerome, who asks him to bury the dead priest. Before he can finish, the Huron leaders take the priests to a council meeting. The priests are accused of being witches. An eclipse surprises the Huron; Jerome credits God, and he and Laforgue exit before they can be executed. Laforgue sees Jerome’s hypocrisy; Laforgue has begun to lose his faith.
The next day, the sickness spreads. The leaders meet with the priests, who argue that the Huron must be baptized if they want to be saved. Out of desperation, some agree, while others fear losing their culture. Laforgue worries that it is sophistic to baptize the people without properly educating them. The next day, many Huron hope to get baptized. Annuka disguises Daniel as an Algonkin. A villager kills Jerome. Laforgue must perform the baptisms himself. He prays, unsure what to do. He begins to baptize them. As he does so, he discovers a small slither of faith and begins to pray to God.
Part 1, Chapters 1-3