The lieutenant said in a tone of fury: "Well, you're going to be a martyr—you've got that satisfaction." "Oh, no. Martyrs are not like me. They don't think all the time—if I had drunk more brandy I shouldn't be so afraid."
In this interchange between the lieutenant and the priest in Chapter Three of Part III, the priest's retort voices an idea that has been implicit throughout the novel—that thinking and true holiness are somehow opposed to each other. As a kind of snare, thought is something we have seen in many places in this book. While most stories of saints and martyrs are stories of action, defiance, heroism, and conviction, the priest's story is one of introspection, self-doubt, self-abuse, anxiety, and uncertainty. Considered from a different perspective, however, the priest's thoughts do not prevent him from doing good—in fact, in many ways, it is his tendency toward second- thoughts that lead him to make the right decisions. Although his relentless introspection may keep him from being a purely spontaneous agent of goodness, thought ultimately helps him to overcome many of his selfish instincts, including the instinct for self-preservation. His self-sacrificing actions combined with his constant soul-searching ultimately make him seem a martyr to everyone but himself.