And here is the world, she thought, just as we left it. … Another summer in Gilead. Gilead, dreaming out is curse of sameness, somnolence. How could anyone want to live here? That was the question they asked one another, out of their father’s hearing, when they came back from college, or from the world. Why would anyone stay here?
In college all of them had studied the putative effects of deracination, which were angst and anomie, those dull horrors of the modern world. They had been examined on the subject, had rehearsed bleak and portentous philosophies in term papers, and they had done it with the earnest suspension of doubt that afflicts the highly educable. And then their return to the pays natal, where the same old willows swept the ragged lawns, where the same old prairie arose and blossomed as negligence permitted. Home. What kinder place could there be on earth, and why did it seem to them all like exile? Oh, to be passing anonymously through an impersonal landscape! Oh, not to know every stump and stone, not to remember how the fields of Queen Anne’s lace figured in the childish happiness they had offered to their father’s hopes, God bless him.
She had to speak to neighbors in their gardens, to acquaintances she met on the sidewalk. Strangers in some vast, cold city might notice the grief in her eyes, even remember it for an hour or two as they would a painting or a photograph, but they would not violate her anonymity. But these good souls would worry about her, mention her, speculate to one another about her. Dear God, she saw concern in their eyes, regret. Poor Glory, her life has not gone well. Such a nice girl, and bright. Very bright.
That odd capacity for destitution, as if by nature we ought to have so much more than nature gives us. As if we are shockingly unclothed when we lack the complacencies of ordinary life. In destitution, even of feeling or purpose, a human being is more hauntingly human and vulnerable to kindnesses because there is the sense that things should be otherwise, and then the thought of what is wanting and what alleviation would be, and how the soul would be put at ease, restored. At home, But the soul finds its own home if it ever has a home at all.