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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 392

Here are some quotes from the book:

  • "Halfway down the first block a delinquent gang of English sparrows were fighting on the new-coming law of the Elgar house, not playing but rolling and picking and eye-gouging with such ferocity and so loudly that they didn't see Ethan approach." At the beginning of the book, Ethan sees that even nature has been corrupted, and this presages his eventual downturn and corruption. Even something as innocent as the birds has been corrupted at the beginning of the novel.
  • "Hawleys have been living here since the middle seventeen hundreds. You're a foreigner. We've been getting along with our neighbors and being decent all that time. If you think you can barge in from Sicily and change that, you're wrong." Ethan, who is from an old-line family that has fallen in stature, resents the success of Marullo, the Sicilian man who owns the grocery where Ethan works. In the end, however, Marullo admires Ethan and leaves Ethan his store.
  • "Good Friday has always troubled me. Even as a child I was deep taken with sorrow, not at the agony of the crucifixion, but feeling the blighting loneliness of the Crucified. And I've never lost the sorrow, planted by Matthew, and read to me in the clipped, tight speech of my New England Great-Aunt Deborah." Ethan sees himself as a kind of crucified figure, like Jesus. He tries to redeem others, such as Danny, but he fails, causing him to feel lonely. He deeply identifies with Jesus.
  • "In me Danny is a raw sorrow and out of that a guilt. I should be able to help him. I've tried, but he won't let me. . . . Maybe my guilt comes because I am my brother's keeper and I haven't saved him." Like Jesus, Ethan wants to redeem Danny, but he feels guilty because he can't save his friend.
  • "And as the talisman was important and still is to me, so it is to Ellen. Maybe it is Ellen who will carry and pass on whatever is immortal in me." Ethan's family has a translucent stone, which he refers to as a talisman, and it is also vital to his daughter, Ellen. She later slips the talisman into his pocket, and it inspires Ethan, at a moment of crisis, to strive to redeem himself at the end of the book.

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