Study Guide

Gilead Letter 1, Section 18

By Marilynne Robinson

Letter 1, Section 18

  • Ames returns home after a discouraging and fruitless meeting at the church. He naps. It's dark when he wakes.
  • Ames joins his wife and son on the porch, enjoying the mild night. They hear footsteps on the road.
  • Jack approaches. Mrs. Ames invites him over.
  • Ames tells Jack that his presence at home brings his father happiness. Jack says his father is a saint.
  • Mrs. Ames takes her son to bed.
  • Ames tells Jack he's also glad to have seen him. He means it.
  • The two talk about Karl Barth.
  • Ames says he admires Jack's tenacity. Jack says he wouldn't admire him if he knew his motives.
  • Mrs. Ames rejoins the men. As they sit there, Ames imagines Jack as his son.
  • Then Ames pictures all people as civilizations unto themselves. He thinks on the meaning of poverty and suffering.
  • Jack and Mrs. Ames talk. She says people speak kindly of him.
  • Jack says he feels like returning home has been like returning to the scene of a crime.
  • Jack and Mrs. Ames talk some more. He thanks her, calling her Lila, and departs.
  • Ames takes the "scene of a crime" talk as a joke, but he wonders how Jack really feels about being back home. He also notes that Jack seemed to relax while speaking to Lila.

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