Gilead | Study Guide

Marilynne Robinson

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Gilead | Section 16 | Summary



John claims it is not true that he never warmed to Jack, even though he wrote as much. Jack "is my son," he writes; "The image of the Lord in anyone is much more than reason enough to love him." John knows God wants him to forgive Jack, but he also cannot forget what happened to Jack's daughter. John recognizes his central question is if Jack plans to hurt Lila and their son. If so, he is "afraid theology would fail" him.


John has to ask himself why he finds it so hard to forgive Jack when Boughton could forgive Jack so easily, despite being much more deeply affected by Jack's misdeeds. John frames his self-questioning with his spirituality: should not the fact God loves Jack be enough reason for John to also love him? After all, "the Lord stands waiting to take our enemies' sins upon Himself." If John continues to hold Jack "at fault," he would be rejecting "the reality of grace," which would be contrary to his spirituality. Basically, John's spirituality dictates he must forgive Jack. So, what is standing in his way of doing so? John sees the problem that "human beings do real harm," and what Jack did in abandoning his daughter was terrible and resulted in her death. John has trouble accepting that such grave harm could simply be wiped away. At the core of John's dilemma is his fear that Jack could harm Lila and their son and that his spirituality would not be enough.

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