Study Guide

Gilead The Home

By Marilynne Robinson

The Home

I don't know why I should expect to have any idea of heaven. I could never have imagined this world if I hadn't spent almost eight decades walking around in it. (1.5.26)

Ames doesn't dwell on images of heaven. He doesn't see the point. Why not? Well, he expects heaven to be entirely unlike the popular images of it.

I suppose we really should have stolen her. (1.15.13)

Jack's first child died because he abandoned her and she wasn't raised in a safe home. Ames believes that Gilead would have been a better home for her, even if the child had been separated from her mother's family. He thinks Gilead would have created a community for her.

All that time, though, I think he was just finding his way to Edward, and I really can't blame him for it. He did try to take me along with him. (1.15.115)

Ames's father drifts away from his ministry vocation. Once devout, he loses touch with his former conviction. The church is no longer home to him. His home is with his son Edward.

"It feels a little like returning to the scene of a crime." (1.16.45)

Gilead isn't home to Jack. At least, he doesn't feel at home there. Did he ever feel that Gilead was home? Did that change after he got into trouble?

"[A settled life] was the one thing I wanted. I used to look in people's windows at night and wonder what it was like." (1.16.59)

More than anything, Lila wanted a settled home. She found it with John Ames, and that's why she was willing and happy to marry a man much older than she was.

This morning a splendid dawn passed over our house on its way to Kansas. (1.20.14)

Like the passing dawn, the home is only temporary, even if you lives your whole life in one place. For Ames, perhaps the only real home is with God.

I truly suspect I never left because I was afraid I would not come back. (2.21.101)

Ames leaves Gilead a few times but never permanently. Gilead is always home. But it could be otherwise: Ames knows he'd be tempted to abandon Gilead and make a new home if he visited new, more exciting places.

He told me looking back on Gilead from any distance made it seem a relic, an archaism. (2.21.103)

A small town like Gilead doesn't have the hustle and bustle of big-city life. Life there moves slowly. A congregation waits for its preacher to die before building a new church, for example. After all, what's the rush? Time just seems to move more slowly there.

"I have become aware that we here lived within the limits of notions that were very old and even very local. I want you to understand that you do not have to be loyal to them." (2.21.103)

Ames's small-town Christian way of life is as much a home to him as Gilead itself. His father wants him to let these go, Queen Elsa-style. Do you think his father expects his son to be loyal to him and all his wishes?

Well, all he accomplished was to make me homesick for a place I never left. (2.21.105)

Ames listens to his father but comes away from it more inclined to stay in Gilead. What is it about Gilead that most attracts him?

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