Study Guide

Gilead Letter 1, Section 5

By Marilynne Robinson

Letter 1, Section 5

  • Ames tells a story.
  • Villagers in an abolitionist settlement had dug a tunnel under the road between the dry-goods store and a livery stable. They dug it too near the surface.
  • A stranger on a horse entered the place, paused on the road, and fell into the tunnel.
  • The villagers faked bewilderment and convinced him to take a horse of theirs.
  • Once the stranger was gone, they turned to the problem of excavating the horse.
  • A fugitive from the South finds all this hilarious but also cause for alarm. He flees. A couple of the settlers go after him, hoping to direct him to a better hiding spot. He'll take his chances on his own.
  • The settlers get the horse out but now have the problem of the exposed tunnel. They solve it by just up and moving the settlement itself.
  • Ames's son plays with Tobias in the sprinkler. Ames thinks about baptism.
  • Edward returns from Germany. He plays ball with Ames.
  • Offered a glass of water, Edward pours it over his head and quotes the Psalms.
  • Ames tells Edward he's reading Feuerbach.
  • Edward warns Ames not to let Mama catch him.
  • Ames takes his vocation seriously. He and Boughton study the Greek and Hebrew of the biblical passages they'll preach about. They also talk of the singularity of a face, especially the face of an infant.
  • Ames was terrified of his son when his son was an infant.
  • Ames's wife instructs their son in the faith.
  • Tobias's father, Mr. Schmidt, complains that the boys were swearing. Ames says it's harmless.
  • Ames won't tell his wife about this. He doesn't want her to worry that their son will lose his only friend.
  • Ames preaches about physical particularity. His wife brings their son to receive the sacrament.
  • In the letter, Ames tells his son to visit the church during the night to hear its night sounds.
  • Ames knows, though, that the people in the church plan to tear down the building once he dies.

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