Book 9 Chapter 8
Summary: On the final day of Latour’s life, people fill the Cathedral to pray for him. He dies as evening falls—at twilight, the time of day in which he loved best to see Santa Fe. He dies as he remembers again consoling Father Joseph in his decision to journey to the New World.
Analysis: The last, brief chapter brings the novel’s title to fulfillment. We are reminded of the concern devoted earlier in the novel to the issue of last words. As it turns out, Latour’s own dying words are murmured and incomprehensible to Bernard; but Cather, as omniscient novelist, gives us a privileged glimpse into Latour’s dying thoughts—although, indeed, she goes so far as to say he is actually “in a tip-tilted green field among his native mountains… trying to give consolation to a young man who was being torn in two… by the desire to go and the necessity to stay” (p. 297). The words aptly describe not only that long-ago service Latour paid to Vaillant, but also Latour’s own final moments. Like the apostle Paul, Latour may be torn at some level between “staying” (living) and “going” (dying): “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:21-24, KJV). But, just as Latour and Vaillant set out for the New World so long ago, Latour now sets out for a “new world” of whatever waits him beyond this life.