Study Guide

Gilead Sin

By Marilynne Robinson


The religion we see in Gilead isn't about sin, but sin sure does haunt the novel.

John Ames is a Christian preacher in a small-town church. You'd expect him to discuss sin, and he does, but it's not his focus. He's not a fire-and-brimstone kind of preacher. He's concerned with what's necessary in a sinful world: grace, forgiveness, solidarity, and love. He has no illusions about how destructive sin can be to lives and relationships, but he doesn't despair or wags his finger. Instead, he tries to help, and he does that partly by trying to see the sacredness within everyone.

Questions About Sin

  1. Why does Ames write that anger can destroy? What does it destroy? How?
  2. What sins does Ames accuse himself of most?
  3. Is Ames a judgmental person? How so?
  4. What does Ames most regret?

Chew on This

Ames fears for the soul of his son.

Ames does not fear for the soul of his son.

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