Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Seven Story Mountain is an autobiography of the monk Thomas Merton’s life. Therefore, all of the characters discussed are real life people who influenced his journey. The first people that Merton references are his parents. He writes that he learned minimalism and a lack of desire for things like automobiles and clothing from his father. From his mother, Merton learned to be dissatisfied with the way things were in society. His mother died early in his life and his father became the sole caretaker. The two traveled the world together, and this was a prominent learning moment for him.
While traveling, Merton joined a rugby team and talks briefly of his teammates. He writes of his grandparents and their roles in his childhood. His grandparents were Protestants, but he could never figure out exactly which type of Protestant. Their minister was Mr. Riley. He writes of Aunt Maud and says, “I think I have met very few people in my life so like an angel.” Aunt Maud became somewhat of a maternal figure, providing stability at a time when there wasn’t much.
Merton grew up to teach as a professor at the St. Bonaventure College. Afterward, he converted to Roman Catholicism and entered the Abbey of Our Lady Gethsemani. Here he met the abbot Dom Frederic Dunne. He was incredibly influential as someone who encouraged him to write a memoir. Merton explains that at first he saw no use for it. However, once he began, he found great purpose in the act of writing.
There were many people that had influence over Merton’s coming of age. However, the most omnipresent relationship in the book is his connection to God. Throughout the autobiography, Merton explores the path he took to understand his relationship to God and the world around him. At various times, he considered religion and the Church. In other moments he read the Bible for consultation. At other times, religious figures in his life guided him. Merton spends significant time in the book reflecting on his own understandings of faith and spirituality.