Gilead | Study Guide

Marilynne Robinson

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Gilead | Section 12 | Summary



John addresses the sin of coveting, and claims he "never really succeeded in obeying that Commandment." He also addresses the Fifth Commandment: "Honor your father and your mother." He says Lila should consider all the money he has spent on his congregation over the years and not be too proud about accepting their help after he is gone.


As far as the sin of coveting, John admits he has found it difficult to "rejoice with those who rejoice," because he all too often wants what they have. Clearly, in his lonely years, John coveted the happiness he thought Boughton had with all his children. He follows up his musings on the sin of coveting with musings on honoring one's parents. He points out that parents also honor their children, and mentions examples of fathers in the Bible who never rebuked their offspring, including Adam, Eli, Samuel, and David. Jacob is his one example of a father who both rebukes and blesses his children at the same time. Considering John's recent "rebuke" of Jack, who is in many ways like a son to John, it is interesting to ponder if these musings are John's subconscious attempt to show remorse for his sermon in Section 11.

This section also discusses Robinson's theme of unconditional love. John claims it is "godlike to love the being of someone," meaning that one unconditional aspect of love is delighting in the mere existence of another. A person who practices unconditional love has a "sense of the sacredness" of another. Loving someone unconditionally is about seeing someone as God sees them, and "that is an instruction in the nature of God and humankind and of Being itself."

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