‘Everything can change’
Civil rights, civil war, and radical transformation in Home and Gilead
in Marilynne Robinson
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This chapter argues that race and racial equality are a central, stand-alone, and defining preoccupation in Robinson’s oeuvre. This essay argues that Gilead and Home constitute two of the most radical novels on the subject of race and civil rights in America. They have far more in common with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) or Toni Morrison’s Jazz (1992) than they do with novels by other white authors that similarly invoke the racial politics of the 1950s and 1960s. Whereas for Philip Roth or Jeffrey Eugenides, for example, racial difference and racial ‘mixing’ exist predominantly as useful metaphors, for Robinson race ‘as race’ is an unresolved conflict at the heart of her project. In this she is allied – to some extent – with William Faulkner, and most closely with the radical writers of the nineteenth-century such as Herman Melville and Mark Twain, as this essay concludes.


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