Character Analysis Jean Marie Latour


Cather goes to great lengths to depict Latour as a character subject to humanity and human foibles, rather than as an idealized and unbelievably unrealistic symbol of moral and religious rectitude. In so doing, she creates a fully rounded individual who is more believable, and whose accomplishments are more remarkable for having been performed by a normal human being who has feelings of loneliness and insecurity, as well as crises of faith.

Latour is introverted and finds it difficult to make connections with other people. He is drawn into a friendship with Joseph Vaillant as a Seminary student because Vaillant possesses the qualities Latour lacks. The two forge a close friendship that endures until Vaillant's death. Whereas Latour finds it difficult to make new friends, he is a loyal friend who nevertheless places the needs of his church and faith ahead of all other considerations.

Latour's reticence allows him to present, as Jacinto takes note, one face to all people. Indeed, Latour admires all the people in his diocese, whether Indian, Mexican, Spanish, or American. He neither bows nor condescends to anyone. He is sympathetic to the Navajo cause but is aware that he cannot impact government's policies as a Catholic; he is pleased when those policies are reversed, allowing the Navajos to return to their sacred lands. He is friends with Kit Carson, despite the frontiersman's methodology in forcing the Navajos from their lands.

Latour believes in growing fruits and gardens, and he desires a better diet and medical help for the Mexicans and Indians. He believes miracles occur in accordance with natural law, allowing him to witness God's hand in nature and human behavior. This is consistent with Latour's hobby as a gardener; he nurtures his gardens as he nurtures the spirituality of his diocese.

Latour's assessment of his accomplishments reveals a deep-seated humility. He has reclaimed a diocese, built a cathedral, quietly inspired his parishes, and championed the causes of Mexicans, African Americans, and Indians. He has contended successfully with the behaviors and subsequent schismatic movement of Martinez and Lucero. He nevertheless believes his accomplishments pale in comparison to Vaillant's.