Friday, August 29, 2014

Sarah Ganzenmuller AP Lit Summer Blog Post #5

Gilead: Blog 1
Sarah Ganzenmuller 
Friday, August 29, 2014

Due to the fact that the book Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is a lengthy well thought out letter written by Reverend John Ames of his life history, addressed to his son in anticipation of his death, one thing becomes immediately evident. It is clear that John, the narrator, cares a great deal about family, and developing deep connections and a profound relationship with his son, similar to the one he and his own father had. When addressing his father he has nothing but the uttermost respect and admiration, looking up to him as both a man and priest. This strong father-son relationship directly effects the readers understanding of his character.

When Edward, the narrators older brother, came home after going away for a while he claimed that believing in god was childish. This was nearly a direct insult to both boys father, a devoted priest whose life centered around his religion. The narrator recalled that after Edwards eviction his mother told him, “If you ever spoke to your father that way, it would kill him”(Robinson 27). To this he soon remarked “In fact, my thought was always to defend my father. I believe I have done just that,” (27). Understanding this family dynamic gives reason for Johns fervent pursuit of god driven by his intentions to please his father. John grew up to see what a disappointment, despite his extreme intelligence, Edward was to his father, who John soon swore he would do right by. This, above anything else, illuminates specifically Johns loyal character, and his devotion to the people he loves.

           Despite this obvious similarity John often fixates on the elusive differences between the two men’s approach to preaching. He accounts that his father preached from notes, while almost shamefully admits that he has to write his whole sermons out. John is amazed at his fathers ability to create the magnificent sermons he did given with such a powerful delivery on the spot. This accentuates Johns modesty in a rather subtle way. John constantly downplays his own significance, while giving his father all the credit in the world. Although John believes he has defended his father, it becomes clear that he doesn’t necessarily believe he has lived up to him, which through indirect references and stories is clearly not the case. This leads one to see the self doubt in John, which keeps him from ever expressing outright how special he really is. 

John sticks to his word, and follows in his father’s footsteps to grow up to be a minister, living by the same scriptures and principles. Religion played a predominate role in both mans life, effecting and persuading both men in ways nothing else would. Both felt a sense of commitment and obligation to God. John and his father are and were united by their pursuit of religion. When traveling together John recalls strangers immediately recognizing his father as a preacher. He describes their ability to identify his father immediately, and soon acknowledges that people do the same to him now, saying “And they could tell he was a preacher, rough-looking as we were a few days into our desert wanderings, as he called them(…) I have had the same experience many times, and I have wondered about it, too” (16). It is clear here that both men carry themselves in such away, exuding the same kind of light which separates them from the rest. 
John frequently recalls fond stories and memories he has of his father. One particular trip they took together to find his grandfather’s grave is mentioned often. He recollects the night they stood at the grave, admiring the alignment of the setting moon and rising sun. That night is father told him that everyone had the privilege to observe the same thing. John considers the situation and claims, “I realized my father would have meant that the sun and moon aligned themselves as they did with no special reference to the two of us. He never encouraged any talk about visions or miracles, except the ones in the Bible” (48). In other words this setting and rising of the sun and moon, something that was so magnificent and beautiful at the moment, something that seemed like a private show just for them, was no miracle. You can sense Johns resistance to this specific belief of his fathers more than anything else, but soon you find he succumbs to most everything his father tells him, as later it is claimed when preaching about miracles he said similar things to his dad. This little moment, and potential disgreement, though small and seemingly insignificant, shows that maybe there is a little more to John then he lets on. It is my belief that John had his own views on things that differed immensely from his dads, but they were quickly disregarded and set aside to please his father. This may be the one unhealthy tint in their relationship, as it may be Johns father had too much of an influence on him. This underlying complication is what shows maybe a weaker side to John, and his easily persuaded philosophies and lack of resistance to things deep down he might disagree with. 

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