Study Guide

Gilead Letter 1, Section 15

By Marilynne Robinson

Letter 1, Section 15

  • Ames explains his apprehension about Jack Boughton.
  • In his youth, Jack became involved with a young girl and got her pregnant. The girl now lives with her family in a dirty, isolated place.
  • Jack Boughton confessed the sin to his father.
  • The family got involved with trying to help with the child. Ames was involved as well.
  • The child grew sick and died after cutting her foot on something. She was around three at the time.
  • Boughton's family regrets not doing more; they even regret not stealing the child.
  • Ames doesn't know what's right and wrong in a situation like this.
  • Mrs. Boughton had bought the child shoes, but the girl was barefoot when she got the cut and the infection.
  • The mother ran off to Chicago.
  • Jack left home, not returning even when his mother passed away.
  • In the present time, Mrs. Ames leaves some old sermons for her husband, hoping to give him more time with his son.
  • Ames wishes he could give his son the memories of the first time he saw his mother.
  • Back to the past: Glory and Ames took some things to the baby. The mother ignored them, offended by their concern and helpfulness.
  • The girl followed her father's views on the matter.
  • When they left, Glory said she didn't' understand one thing in this world.
  • Tobias plays in the yard with Ames's son, throwing pebbles at a cap.
  • Jack arrives, bat and glove in hand. He sets his glove on the boy's head. Then he talks with Mrs. Ames.
  • Jack asks to talk with Ames tomorrow in his study.
  • Ames imagines heaven. He images meeting his son as a brother, neither of them old.
  • Ames wakes early, of a mind to dress better than he usually does.
  • Ames goes to the church and falls asleep in a pew. Jack finds him there. Ames apologizes.
  • Jack is well dressed as well.
  • Jack and Ames converse about the church and about vocations in the family.
  • Jack gets up to leave, but Ames urges him to say what's on his mind.
  • The younger man admits to losing his faith early.
  • Jack says that he lies a lot because being truthful makes things go wrong for him.
  • Jack still wants an answer to his question about predestination. Ames doesn't have much to tell him that he thinks would be helpful.
  • Jack mentions an acquaintance in Tennessee speaking about Ames's grandfather.
  • The two chat about the demographics of the town before the Civil War. They turn to Karl Barth.
  • As they talk, Ames feels that Jack is winning the conversation.
  • Jack asks for forgiveness and goes. Ames thinks he may write him a letter.
  • Before leaving Gilead, Ames's grandfather is invited to say a few words at a Fourth of July celebration. He preaches to the audience, telling that that Gilead is perishing. Most of the audience isn't paying attention.
  • When Edward is away in Germany, Ames's father monitors Ames's statements for any signs of heterodoxy. Through Ames, he argues with Edward. He starts reading the books Edward recommended to Ames. Then he begins to question his own faith.
  • Ames interprets this as his father's way of finding his way to Edward.
  • Ames tells his son in the letter not to look for proofs in matters of belief. Make sure your doubts and questions are your own, he writes.
  • Ames receives an apology note from Jack Boughton. He responds with an apology note of his own.
  • Ames remembers Jack as a boy setting fire to his mailbox, taking off in an idle Model T, and getting into other kinds of mischief. And sometimes just being mean.
  • Ames fears that Jack Boughton is still this way and will bring injury to his wife and son.
  • Awaking in his chair, Ames smells the pancakes his wife has made for his birthday.
  • Ames writes Jack another note. This one he gives to him personally. They agree to meet.
  • Ames remembers agreeing to baptize Jack.
  • Boughton had planned to give Jack the name Theodore Dwight Weld.
  • But during the baptism, Boughton gave Jack the name John Ames instead.
  • Ames takes offense, as this is not his child. He's never able to warm to Jack.

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