Doom, Destiny, And Grace: The Prodigal Son In Marilynne Robinson’s Home
Both Robinson’s novel Home (2008) and Gilead (2005) invigorate longstanding theological debate on the doctrine of predestination, creating perhaps the most indelible Prodigal Son figure in modern literature. Home offers readers a more intimate characterization of Jack, told from the perspective of his younger sister Glory, a figure not characterized in the Biblical parable, but whose importance in this novel replaces that of the all-embracing father in the Biblical tale. Unlike their siblings, Jack and Glory struggle with a deep self perception of being doomed: Jack by alcoholism, a history of transgression, inability to believe in God, and his father’s unwillingness to forgive him; Glory by a too-trusting, deferential nature that has deprived her of a husband, children, and a true calling. Jack’s troubles with belief mark him as representative of modern self consciousness. His sad return to a home where he cannot stay exposes nuances and pitfalls of the human tendency to pass judgment on oneself and others, especially to perceive some individual destinies as overshadowed by doom. This paper identifies a supposedly obsolete definition of doom: the faculty of judgment itself, which can be personal and private. Applying this definition of doom to the development of Robinson’s novel, it argues that the interior quest to fulfill a sense of destiny remains unfinished as our attention changes and refocuses on what constitutes meaning in our lives.