Gilead | Study Guide

Marilynne Robinson

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Gilead | Section 20 | Summary



John continues to write about his courtship with Lila. She came to him to be baptized, and he taught her the doctrines of Christianity. She also started to help around John's house, and when he asked her how he could repay her, she proposed marriage.

Glory comes over to take Lila to the movies and to drop off Boughton at John's. Boughton confesses he does not know what is worrying Jack, but Jack will not talk to him or to Glory. Jack comes by and is alarmed to see his father at John's. John claims Boughton just "needed to get out of the house," but both John and Jack know this is a poor lie.


Even in questions of lovesickness, John sees his problems through his lens of spirituality. He turns to the Bible in his "crisis," to Song of Solomon. He worries he might have more passion for Lila than she has for him, but he realizes that Lila will have a long life to love others after he is gone. His implied fear is that Lila and Jack will get together, and that she will love Jack more than she ever loved him. But, he tells himself that "love is holy because it is like grace," and it does not matter who loves or is loved, merely that love exists. It should simply be a comfort to him to know that God intends to take care of Lila.

When Boughton shows up at John's, it disturbs him greatly. Boughton tells John that Jack is "still not right" with himself. John takes this as a warning that he needs to have a conversation with Lila about Jack. It also puts John in an uncomfortable position when Jack sees the two of them together, because he knows Jack suspects them of conspiring against him in some way. There is not much he can do to reassure Jack without betraying the confidence of his dear friend.

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