A little different every time' - Accumulation and repetition in Jack
in Marilynne Robinson
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This essay closes the collection by considering what Robinson’s fourth Gilead novel, Jack, adds to the quartet. Returning to the same characters in four temporally and spatially limited stories, the Gilead novels work by a process of repetition and slow accumulation, adding meaning through slight changes in voice, perspective, and the gradual revelation of detail. Jack alters this thesis only slightly, retelling the much-discussed life of Jack ‘John Ames’ Boughton from a third-person perspective more closely aligned with his psyche and finally covering the period before Gilead when he began his relationship with Della Miles. Yet, adding more detail to the already well-trodden story of Jack and his inter-racial relationship with Della demonstrates major gaps in how Jack – and, indeed, Robinson – perceives his impact on others. This essay therefore ends the collection by questioning the centrality of whiteness to the Gilead novels and asking who, in these novels, gets the privilege of second, third, or fourth chances.


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