Vol. 58 No. 3 (2010)
Research Article

Names in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and Home

Published 2010-09-01


  • ...More



The titles of Marilynne Robinson's complementary novels Gilead (2004) and Home (2008) and the names of their characters are rich in allusions, many of them to the Bible and American history, making this tale of two Iowa families in 1956 into an exploration of American religion with particular reference to Christianity and civil rights. The books' titles suggest healing and comfort but also loss and defeat. Who does the naming, what the name is, and how the person who is named accepts or rejects the name reveal the sometimes difficult relationships among these characters. The names also reinforce the books' endorsement of a humanistic Christianity and a recommitment to racial equality.


  1. Abernethy, Bob. September 18 2009. “Marilynne Robinson Extended Interview.” Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. Available at: <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes> [accessed October 16 2009].
  2. Davis, John D. 1965. “Jacob.” A Dictionary of the Bible. 4th rev. ed. Westwood, NJ: Revell.
  3. Foner, Eric. 1990. A Short History of Reconstruction 1863–1877. New York: Harper.
  4. Gritz, Jennie Rothenberg. November 17 2004. “Gilead’s Balm.” The Atlantic. Available at: <http://www.theatlantic.com> [accessed February 3 2009].
  5. “Jack.” 2004–2009. Meaning of Names. Available at: <http://www.meaning-of-names.com> [accessed March 14 2010].
  6. “Lila.” 2004–2009. Meaning of Names. Available at: <http://www.meaning-of-names.com> [accessed June 17 2009].
  7. “Lila.” 2009. Parents. Available at: <http://www.parents.com/baby-names/lila> [accessed June 17 2009].
  8. Loewen, James W. 2005. Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. New York: New Press.
  9. Neary, Lynn. September 20 2008. “Marilynne Robinson, At ‘Home’ in the Heartland.” Interview. NPR. Available at: <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94799720> [accessed March 14 2010].
  10. Painter, Rebecca M. 2009. “Further Thoughts on a Prodigal Son Who Cannot Come Home, on Loneliness and Grace: An Interview with Marilynne Robinson.” Christianity and Literature 58: 484–92.
  11. Petit, Susan. 2009–2010. “Finding Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Good Man’ in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Home.” Christianity and Literature 59: 301–18.
  12. “Popular Baby Names.” 2009. Social Security Online. Available at: <http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames> [accessed June 17 2009].
  13. Robinson, Marilynne. 2004. Gilead. New York: Farrar.
  14. Robinson, Marilynne. 2008. Home. New York: Farrar.
  15. Savage, Charlie. June 24 2009. “On Nixon Tapes, Ambivalence Over Abortion, Not Watergate.” New York Times. Available at: <http://www.nytimes.com> [accessed June 24 2009].
  16. Segundo, Bat. Posted October 8 2008. “Marilynne Robinson (BSS #240).” The Bat Segundo Show. Available at: <http://edrants.com/segundo> [accessed July 18 2009].
  17. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language. 1970. 2nd coll. ed. New York: World.
  18. Wills, Gary. 2007. Head and Heart: American Christianities. New York: Penguin.