The Seven Storey Mountain - Part 3: Chapter 4, The Sweet Savor of Liberty Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 29 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Seven Storey Mountain.
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Part 3: Chapter 4, The Sweet Savor of Liberty Summary and Analysis

Once inside Gethsemani, Merton still had to confess his dark past to the Master of Novices, but it had now been three years since his baptism and Abbot Dom Frederic accepted him into the community. He was given the name Frater Louis. When Merton received the habit, he did so with a Carmelite, a man he had met on his first retreat to Gethsemani. The Carmelite told the Master of Novices, "Father, here is a man who was converted to the faith by reading James Joyce".

Though he knew many who gave up and left the monastery, Merton said he never seriously considered it. A life of simplicity, prayer, and contemplation is what he was made for. Following his entrance to the monastery, the book starts to wind down. There is no more conflict, no drama, until a final significant event takes place that deals with John Paul. Word came that he was being shipped overseas to fly bombing raids in Europe. Before he left, he came to Gethsemani and asked to be baptized. There was a four-day crash course in which Merton told his brother "everything I knew" about the faith. John Paul was baptized and received communion, then went off to war. Merton writes, "In those last four days the work of eighteen or twenty years of my bad example had been washed away and made good by God's love".

There is a poignant scene—possibly the most moving of the entire book—in which John Paul is waving good-bye to his brother from the back seat of a car leaving Gethsemani and Merton's mind flashes to their childhood days and he sees his brother standing apart from him, unhappy and longing to be with him. And Merton realizes that it's the last time he will ever see John Paul. The following spring, April of 1943, John Paul died when his plane went down during combat in the North Sea.

Merton's motif of placing or at least remembering minor friends at major events in his life continues in this chapter. He enters the cloister with a "fat kid from Buffalo" that occupies hardly any space in the story and later leaves the order. He receives the habit with the Carmelite—another minor player.

The scene in which Merton says good-bye to John Paul is an example of the excellent writing in this book in which every tale and every detail, though often seemingly pointless at first blush, carries some weight and moves the story along. Reading about John Paul and those childhood forts in the first chapter, the reader has no idea how moving that imagery will be four hundred pages later when the two part for the last time. This one scene—and the sort-of bookended stories of John Paul from Merton's childhood and just before John Paul's death, form possibly the most appealing literary exhibit of the book.

This section contains 505 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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