Marilynne Robinson’s novel, Housekeeping, follows her central protagonist, Ruth, her sister Lucille, and her aunt Sylvie as they work to establish their place up against a greater surround. This paper attempts to read the novel through the conceptual prism of the word “tethers.” I argue that the characters' relationships with the surround shifts as they work through their trauma and grapple with the notion of impermanence by reconciling with both those things that tether them, those tethers that do not exist or have been released, and the tethers from which they want to break free. Ultimately I argue that the “tethers of need” that make the characters human is fundamental to how they understand their position and relationship with an unsympathetic environment.



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