The Death of Adam Essay - Critical Essays

Marilynne Robinson

The Death of Adam

In her introduction to THE DEATH OF ADAM: ESSAYS ON MODERN THOUGHT, Marilynne Robinson explains that these essays were composed for various occasions and publications during the several years before this book was written. All of them, she accurately notes, are “contrarian in method and spirit;” they assert that the prevailing view of things is often wrong and, further, that the opposite view of things is also usually wrong. The essays often explore the disparity between primary texts which have had significant social impact (such as Charles Darwin’s THE DESCENT OF MAN, 1871) and what subsequent generations have claimed as the meanings of the texts.

In this spirit of revisionism and demonstration that there are other ways of thinking than the commonly held opinions suggest, Robinson addresses a wide range of issues and topics: religion, science, economics, education, the environment, the sweep of history in the western world. She is particularly adept at making connections between attitudes and events and between the myths society clings to and the realities of survival that are at stake if these myths are not re-examined.

Robinson’s writing is stunning and compelling, never simplistic or mundane. The humanitarian vision which shapes each of the essays makes this a profound work at both the levels of individual self-understanding and of understanding contemporary culture. With a clear passion, Robinson argues for the need to re-conceptualize subjects thought to be already known or understood, and she presents a strong case for the need for sweeping cultural change.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCV, September 1, 1998, p. 63.

Boston Globe. September 13, 1998, p. C2.

The Christian Century. CXV, November 18, 1998, p. 1101.

Library Journal. CXXIII, September 15, 1998, p. 86.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, July 27, 1998, p. 60.

San Francisco Chronicle. October 4, 1998, p. REV5.