Study Guide

Gilead Family

By Marilynne Robinson


It's tough to keep a family together. Gilead features three families facing especially difficult times: the head of the Ames family is slowly dying; the Boughtons have a prodigal son; and Jack Boughton has a family, far away, that he loves but can't provide for. What makes a family? Why does family matter? These are some of the big questions the novel tackles. In fact, the whole book is framed around the question of family: it's a letter, written by a dying father to his young son, giving the boy the history of his family and their family's friends.

Questions About Family

  1. Why is Jack hesitant to tell his father about his new family?
  2. Why is Ames so concerned with Jack's return?
  3. How is Ames like his father and grandfather? How is he different from them?
  4. What is the wilderness that Ames speaks of sending his son into?

Chew on This

Ames is more like his father.

Ames is more like his grandfather.

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