Study Guide

Gilead Mortality

By Marilynne Robinson

Mortality

Everything ends, but there's beauty to mortality if you're willing to accept it. At least that's what John Ames comes to realize in Gilead. The novel is a letter of love from an aging, dying father to his still very young son. John Ames, the writer, knows that the words he writes may never be read, or, if they are read, their meaning may be misunderstood and pass away. Ames is only too keen on the fragility of everything. He's already lost a wife and a daughter, and he knows his current wife and son will soon lose him. Everything he writes is haunted with the knowledge that death is near for him, and eventually it will comes for everyone.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Why do the townsfolk ask Ames what death is like?
  2. Is Ames's letter an attempt to live beyond his mortal life? Why or why not?
  3. What makes the temporal and transitory beautiful for Ames?
  4. How does Ames imagine the afterlife?

Chew on This

Ames writes his letter up to the very end.

Ames concludes his letter with time in his life remaining.

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