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“Housekeeping” by Marilynne Robinson

“Housekeeping” by Marilynne Robinson


Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson's first novel, is a modern classic written by one of the finest American writers. Written in an elegant, lyrical, and evocative style, Robinson's work explores themes of identity, memory, and language; loss, spiritual yearning, and redemption; and relationships among family, home, culture, and the natural world. Housekeeping first articulated these themes in a singular, memorable voice. This paper discusses the ideea of housekeeping and the impact of the past of Ruth's life from Marilynne Robinson's novel “Housekeeping”.


“My name is Ruth.” So begins Marilynne Robinson's novel Housekeeping, establishing Ruth, a young woman, as the narrator of her family's story and more so, of her unconventional childhood that was a result of it.

Ruth Stone is a first-person narrator and protagonist in the novel. Stone is a self-conscious young person. Ruth is frequently quiet and is fond of reading during much of the novel. Just as the biblical Ruth, she is meant to go behind others; primarily Lucille (her sister) in a search for reception from the town, later Sylvie (her aunt) in a search for herself. Ruth, still interior and passive, cautiously believes that the planet around her and is a devoted viewer She progressively throws out the usual world of Fingerbone, Idaho, for the attraction of a momentary way of life with Sylvie. As Ruth recalls the actions of the novel, she constructs her own individuality. (Bohannan 2002)

The day that a spectacular train derailment took the life of Edmund Foster, the provincial town of Fingerbone, Idaho, would be changed forever. With his death, Foster leaves behind his wife Sylvia and three daughters, Molly, Helen and Sylvie. Driven by her own will to carry on within the bounds of acceptability and conforming, Sylvia raises the three girls; doting on their every need, allowing them the luxuries of life, and attempting to turn them each into the ideal young woman. She keeps the big house in Fingerbone always hospitable and welcoming, filling each room with the scent of fresh baked pies and roasted chicken. Despite her attempts, however, Sylvie seems to follow a different agenda right from the beginning. Not interested in anything conventional, Sylvie eventually drifts. The eldest daughter, Molly, becomes committed to her religion and leaves to serve as a missionary, and the middle daughter, Helen, moves to Seattle, where she raises her two young daughters, Lucille and Ruthie, on her own.

Ruthie and Lucille have no recollection of a father nor do they know who he is or what has happened to him. Lucille, in her optimistic belief that he would never leave them, opts for the notion that he has died some sort of heroic death. But Ruthie, older by a year, senses abandonment, pure and simple. They see no point in asking their mother; a sullen woman who lives in her own world. One day, when Helen borrows her friend's car to visit her mother Sylvia in Fingerbone, Ruthie and Lucille are surprised to find out ...
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