The book, "Death Comes for the Archbishop," is mainly about two priests that make their way across the mexican territory in hopes of spreading their faith and religion to the Mexicans and Native Americans that reside there. It takes place in the middle of the 19th century, so the territory is not yet named New Mexico. The Indians' ways have taken over, their beliefs become so engrained into the people's minds that Catholicism is no longer followed. The priests hope to change that. .
Jean Marie Latour is chosen to lead this mission across Mexico's somewhat unforgiving lands and unpredictable people. There are a number of historic people he runs into, including Kit Carson. The novel moves in such a way that the chapters are really individual stories, all linked in only one way - the priests. .
The book has a great number of people to keep track of, and it can be difficult to remember them all. The reading is very choppy, the way she develops the chapters into little stories and not having the typical rise and fall of a usual novel. There did not seem to be a rising nor falling action, it did not seem to have much of a climax either. .
From the title, one could derive a symbolic meaning for the novel. "Death Comes for the Archbishop" could mean that while Father Latour is on this quest for spreading his faith and religion, his own fate is slowly creeping up on him. Although death is not denoted as being a negative ideal in the novel, one can also still not escape it. During his many missions, he encounters much more than the average person. We, as the readers, see how beautiful and wonderous this new land looks through his eyes. .
One of the book's strengths is Willa Cather's ability to paint a beautiful picture out of the words she chooses. Although there does not seem to be much a plot to this story, the scenes in the novel are almost enough to keep the story going. We learn a lot about the wilderness and the way he struggles with nature and at the same time embraces it.