Jack, a novel by Marilynne Robinson

Instructor:  Arlin Larson

  • Zoom Class
  • 4 sessions, Tuesdays, 10:00-11:30 April 6. 13, 20, 27
  • Required Texts
  • Limit 15
  • $15

How can a self-described “bum” recently released from jail and having no other goal in life than “to be harmless” be a worthy, engaging, or even interesting main character in a novel by one of America’s leading authors? Similar doubts arise about the principal characters in all of Marilynne Robinson’s quartet of novels that began with the Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead. A failing minister in a whose congregation is just waiting for him to die so they can build a new church. A middle-aged homeless woman with a history of severe abuse and prostitution. A youngest daughter returning home to care for an aging father as her independent life is exposed as a lie.

Robinson aims to illustrate the miraculous nature of even the most ordinary human lives. While, as in the others, the action in Jack is minimal, his life and human connections do grow in spite of unending self-sabotage. His life also unfolds inextricably linked to social conditions, the racism of Jim Crow era St. Louis, that both form and threaten to destroy him and the woman with whom he falls in love.

Required Texts

Jack by Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 120 Broadway, New York 10271 Copyright © 2020 by Marilynne Robinson

(The character Jack plays major roles in the previous novels Gilead, Home, and, to a lesser extent, Lila. These can provide additional context but are not necessary as they are not in Jack’s own voice.)

The Rev. Dr. Arlin Larson has taught many courses at Senior College in the fields of religion, philosophy, and literature, including on the preceding Gilead series. He is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.