The Charm of Marilynne Robinson’s Epistolary Novel Gilead

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Gilead is a book written by Marilynne Robinson; the book is an epistolary novel, meaning that it is told in the form of letters. the book is about a dying man named John Ames III who is a third-generation Congregationalist minister in Iowa struggles most of his life with his faith and his relationships. He spends most of his time writing the memories of his father and grandfather, and their past experiences in a journal for his son. He wants his son to learn from his mistakes, his father’s, and his grandfather’s mistakes, but he also wants his son to know he loves him no matter what, growing up John’s family was fraught with problems.

Through Johns letters, we see that he desires to have a relationship with his son that is less troublesome than that of his two fathers who came before him. In Johns letters, it is very clear that he is a man who has been wounded and has seen and experienced deep sorrows. John knows he doesn’t have much time left, so he takes the time he does have to reflect on his own past, he reminisces about the things he would have done differently, the things he wishes he could have changed and the things he wished he still had time to do.

Gilead was a very interesting book, while I would not necessarily say that I enjoyed it, I will admit that it did make me think a lot about my life and just how short my time on God’s green earth really is. While I was reading the book, I often found myself putting the it down and pausing to think about how experiences in my past affected and are affecting my life right now. I don’t think the book is meant to be read in one sitting, it’s a book that is meant to be read slowly and thoughtfully, while I was reading it, I was very aware of time going by. It was like the book was making everything slow down, or just seem slower than it really was, I was aware of time almost as much as John Ames was aware of the time he had left in the book.

In Gilead we see a very big focus on family and love, and just what love is and what family means. In the book he makes a statement about love that really stuck with me, he said “Love is holy because it is like grace–the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.” This really struck me as being very inspirational and true, especially about family. I think it’s true about family in that, your family will let you down, you will disagree with them, they won’t always be there for you, and some of them may not love you.

But it’s always your duty to love your family. Gilead is a very philosophical and theologically heavy book, in that John talks a lot about his faith and makes a very astute observation when he says that “Christianity is a life, not a doctrine” this statement inspired me, and got me to thinking about what my faith means to me. Do I believe in God and his word because my friends and family do? Or is it because I’m afraid of being rejected by my friends and family? After thinking and praying about it for quite some time, I decided that the reason I believe in God is because, he gives me hope, he gives me peace of mind, and I know that he loves me unconditionally. God sent his only son to die for me, in the most horrific way possible, He has watched over me my entire life, guiding me, protecting me and surrounding me with people who love me. I know there is no other God but him, I have been truly blessed by the lord.

Gilead is not my favorite book in the world, however, it is one of the most inspirational books I have ever read, when I grow up and become a father and an old man, I want my children to read this book and to learn from it. Just as I have, I think everyone should read this book, we could all afford to learn some of the life lessons from John Ames.


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