Study Guide

Lila Ames in Gilead

By Marilynne Robinson

Lila Ames

Lila comes to Gilead unexpectedly one day. She starts attending services at Ames's church, and she asks him to baptize her there. We don't know the details of her previous life, but we know from Ames that she lived through a lot of hardships. In Ames she finds the chance for a settled life, and she asks him to marry her.

Ames right away notices a "wonderful seriousness" about her (1.5.29). When he preaches and sees her in the back of the church, he feels as though she's the only listener. Lila pursues what she wants with that same seriousness. Partly because of the fact that her husband is at death's door, she's taken it upon herself to become educated, in the faith and otherwise. She knows the education of her child will fall to her alone, and she wants to be ready. She's relieved that studying doesn't "count as work," so she can read and copy poems and books on Sunday, when good Christians are supposed to rest (1.7.13).

Lila's as serious as they come—serious about being a good wife, a good mother, and a good Christian.

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