Gilead: Pages 51-100


Ever since I read the quote about the word “old” I have kept an obsessive watch over its usage in the book.

I am also inclined to overuse the word “old,” which actually has less to do with age, as it seems to me, than it does with familiarity.  It sets a thing apart as something regarded with a modest, habitual affection.  Sometimes it suggests haplessness or vulnerability.  I say “old Boughton,” I say “this shabby old town” and I mean that they are very near my heart.

The narrator (John) actually uses it quite often and about a few items that may surprise the reader.  The most notable use of the word is in reference to his grandfather’s pistol.  The pistol and the action surrounding it is the basis for the disagreement between John’s father and grandfather.  I cannot help but wonder if the use of the word “old” when discussing the pistol means that John himself actually agrees with the view of his grandfather.  Or it could be that “old” is just a word that people use frequently and there is absolutely no relevance to its usage in the book.  It is also of note that John call his grandfather “the old reverend” a few times as well. Again, it’s only speculation, but there may be something to it.
My favorite line is when John responds to people likening him to Abraham after the death of his first wife,

But I had no old wife and no promise of a child.  I was just getting by on books and baseball and fried egg sandwiches.

I think that the scene in which John recalls his father giving him a piece of bread as communion (I will not go into the whole story) reflects a common belief that we hold when we are young that our fathers can do no wrong, that they are almost saint-like.  While I still hold my father in the highest regards, as I draw closer and closer to becoming a father myself I come to the realization more and more that I was wrong as a kid.  Yes my father was and is a great man, but he was and continues to be just that, a man.  None of us are perfect but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be.


To piggyback on what you’ve said about fatherhood and the novel’s obvious concern with it, I noted this line on pg. 85, right after the grandfather has left the home over a dispute with his son, the narrator’s father.

“I had so much respect for my father. I felt certain that he should hide the guilt of his father, and that I should also hide the guilt of mine. I loved him with the strangest, most miserable passion when he stood there preaching about how the Lord hates falsehood and how in the end all our works will be exposed in the naked light of truth.”

This idea that, as sons, we end up carrying our fathers’ burdens with this strange sort of pride is fascinating to me, not least of all because I think it’s true. That the sins of the father will be visited upon the son is less the focus here than that the concerns and struggles and weaknesses of the father will be willingly protected by the son. It’s almost as though Ames’ father is like a younger sibling in that there is this protective instinct that Ames feels towards him, and that he can recognize the flaws, but that he doesn’t want anyone else to. I know I feel this way about my dad. I was disabused of the notion of his perfection pretty early on, and yet I would bristle if any but a very few people pointed out his flaws to me today.

I would pull more quotes, but I think I noted about twenty-five long ones in these fifty pages, and I honestly don’t know where I would start or end. Generally speaking, I think I was most intrigued this time through by the arrival of Boughton’s son, John Ames Boughton, who is obviously named for the narrator by his friend. The narrator is at once frustrated by the arrival of this prodigal son – his misdeeds are not specified in these pages – jealous of the fascination that his son and wife exhibit toward him, and skeptical of the extra-polite demeanor he displays. This leads to some contemplation about how fathers feel towards so-called prodigal sons. Ames says:

“I have said at least once a week my whole adult life that there is an absolute disjunction between our Father’s love and our deserving. Still, when I see this same disjunction between human parents and children, it always irritates me a little. (I know you will be and I hope you are an excellent man, and I will love you absolutely if you are not.)”

This gets right at the core of a major emotional inconsistency that we all feel at one time or another: we’re alright being forgiven, but forgiving others doesn’t come quite as easily. As it specifically relates to fatherhood though, we probably go the other direction and feel we forgive too easily. I don’t know if that’s even possible, but I know I’ve felt it, and my son is only three. The way we have to balance our hopes for our children while knowing that those may not be fulfilled is one of the most psychologically wrecking aspects of parenthood. Just like the world around us, we are commanded to release our children to the Lord and trust in Him. Is there anything harder? I have my doubts.

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4 Comments on “Gilead: Pages 51-100”

  1. Gaydeane Feggestad
    August 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    To start with I absolutely love your blogs. I found your blogs via Facebook when Debbie Breaux posted one of her son’s blogs. Mike Breaux is our teaching pastor at Heartland Church in Rockford, IL.   I have started the Gilead book, however, I am reading it on my Kindle so I don’t believe the page #’s correspond. Plus I don’t think it even has chapter #’s. Hmmm do any of you have this book on a Kindle??   Thanks for you help.   Gaydeane Feggestad

    • curtisrrogers
      August 31, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

      I am also extremely excited to hear that someone is reading along. I have a hard copy as well. I believe you can keyword search some of the phrases in the quotes and find them. Thanks for commenting and reading the site and enjoy the book. We would love for you to share your thoughts as you read.

  2. joshacorman
    August 30, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    I don’t have the book on Kindle (2$ copies at Half-Price Books FTW!), but the quote I posted (Josh) is on page 85 of my copy, so if you find it, you might get a sense of how different the pagination is.

    Also, you don’t know how excited I am that somebody else is reading this book with us. I hope that you find it as enlightening and challenging as I do. Please feel free to jump in with your comments on the book or on our thoughts, we would love to continue to hear from you. Thanks for reading!


  1. Gilead Pages 100-150 | thethingaboutflying - September 5, 2012

    […] and protect and absorb the world’s blows for my son. It is that feeling that I referred to last week’s Gilead post. The difference between most parents and Ames, though,  is that most parents have the option of […]

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