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Understanding the Novel Housekeeping Essay

The novel entitled “Housekeeping” is written by one of the most famous and talented author, Marilynne Robinson. As one of the certified Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, Marilynne Robinson’s 1980 novel called the “Housekeeping” has been nominated for the category of Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, which later-on she also won for another novel entitled Gilead that paved the way for her Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for best first novel.

As of the present time, this novel continues to receive and gain broad recognitions and honors that commemorate the work and contribution of a great American author in the industry of publishing and American literary writing scene. In the year 2003, the Guardian unlimited, a British online site owned by Guardian Media Group, named the novel “Housekeeping” as one of their top 100 list of selection of greatest novels of all time. In addition to this, the Time Magazine, one of the giants in the publishing business, included the said novel of Marilynne Robinson “Housekeeping” in their TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

This inclusion and recognition shows the sterling quality of the novel and its elements. In a sense, there are various reasons and apparent explanations as to how and why this novel of Marilynne Robinson continues to attract the interest of the readers and still remain as one of the ever significant stories that has been written. One of the better rationales is that “Housekeeping,” just like any other widely admired novels, is written with a very strong plot that is designed to directly present and depict a significant personality and character through the representation of Ruth, one of the leading characters in the novel.

In this regard, this essay would directly draw a clear picture and discussion about the character of Ruth and her identity in the main narrative of the novel. In the novel, Ruth is mainly depicted and stood as a character which has a stong personality that is composed and firm despite the negative events that have happened in their family and between her and Lucille, who is her sister. Ruth is presented in the main narrative of the novel as a brave woman who is filled with hopes and beliefs with their family and their eccentric way of living.

Set to live and grow-up with a dysfunctional family, where she and her sister, Lucille, are abandoned by their biological parents with their mother committing a suicide, it is observable that the presentation of Ruth in the novel is a paradigm that the author has used to illustrate specific characteristics of an individual who is brave enough to live and move on with what he or she believes is right. As for the own perception of Ruth, it is observable that staying and living under the eccentric way of life by their family is what makes her complete as a person and as a normal individual on this world.

In respect to the representation of Ruth, it is apparent that the main narrative of the novel further strengthens the notion that Ruth, though has been through different pictures and stories of pain and difficulties with her experiences of a dysfunctional family, still has that belief about the primary stance and role of family to her life as a living entity in their community. As seen apparent to the novel’s story, Ruth’s standpoint is that her family is the primal basis that gives her that distinct identity as a normal entity in this world.

Ruth believes that living and adhering to their unconventional family lifestyle, more especially according to the life of her Auntie, Sylvie, renders her the particular details as a living member of their society. Thus, unlike her sister, Lucile, Ruth takes pride in living her life according to the legacy of their family despite of all the difficulties and many questions that she has in mind. Despite of the many differences and misunderstandings that she has against her younger sibling, Lucille, she has remained to be a loving and caring older sister for Lucille.

As seen apparent in the narrative of the novel, Ruth’s character is an example of a typical protective and concerned elder sister for Lucille where she has stood before her sister for security. Ruth also expressed her love for her younger sister through their shared collection of quality and happy moments spent together prior to the decision of Lucille to go the opposite way and live a conventional life with another family residing in town. In addition to this, Ruth’s character is also affectionate and emotional as she grieved with so much pain with the departure of her sister to live a different way of life.

Moreover, it can also be said that Ruth, despite the characteristic of being brave and composed in pursuing and sticking with the what she believe is right, is a character filled with different confusions and questions which she tries to find specific answers and enlightenment for. As the main narrator of the novel, who tells mostly the story of her experiences from childhood up to womanhood, Ruth herself has numerous thoughts and issues that she can not even answer by her self.

There are things and actions that she is seeing, more especially from the eccentric lifestyle of her Auntie Sylvie and her grandmother from the moment they are forsaken by their own parents. Thus, Ruth’s main personality and character is shaped by many of her own undertakings and events in her life that leads her to be coherent in such a way that she is independent to make any decisions that is based from her own way of thinking.

As compared to her sister, Lucille, Ruth is more composed and firm as she refused to embrace the extensive influence of the outside forces such as the predominance of modern civilization and beliefs of many individuals that surrounds them. Ruth is a character in the novel which has played a rather distinct important role. She served as the narrator of the story and her viewpoint says the distinct taste of the novel and it is on her personality from which the story depends on.

She has a little sister whom she grew up with and as she became nonetheless taller than the rest, there is the need for her sister Lucille to remove the heels of the shoes in order for her to be able to move more naturally and allow her to stand more normally. In this respect, it is seen that Marilynne Robinson, the author of the novel, has the similar characteristic where she remains taller than the rest but tries to remove the heels that sets her apart from the rest.

More so, she tries to remove the false pretentions and high expectations which come from the current notions of fiction from the people. Another characteristic of Ruth in the story is her ability to follow and adopt a particular characteristic that is embodied in the values of her mother. According to one statement of Ruth in the novel, the requests of her mother to wait for her has “established in me the habit of waiting and expectation which make any present moment most significant for what it does not contain” (Robinson, 214).

This particular characteristic of Ruth, as a character in the novel, has shown her to be a child patiently and dreamingly wishes of a parent who has abandoned her. As her mother left them in the care of one another, they have continuously and expectedly tried to contain all the hardships and patiently waited for something which they are unsure would come to them anymore. Works Cited Robinson, Marilynne. Housekeeping: A Novel. New York: St Martins Pr, 2004.


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