The extended philosophical passages toward the end of “Housekeeping” (pp. 192-195) remind me more of the Gospel of John. Robinson seems to be rewriting the Bible, starting with “Cain murdered Abel” and moving forward through the Resurrection. Similarly, the Johannine gospel is, if we take it at its Logos, a daring first-person
account, from Creation through Jesus’ life, that aims to set the record straight in something other than a just-the-facts linear sense. There are long mystical digressions and events that don’t line up with other accounts and confound any sense of plot. Much the same could be (and has been) said of “Housekeeping.” It is probably therefore not a coincidence that several of the Biblical events that Robinson cites in the third immortal passage of “Housekeeping” (pp. 194-195) come from John’s gospel.
By the time of his death, Thoreau had only published two books, which were seen as obscure and weird by many, though he did have a few admirers, most notably Ralph Waldo Emerson. Before he died, Thoreau had boasted of his library, filled with about 900 books, but seemed to pick at the fact that 700 of them were his own. He paid for the publishing of his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers out of his own pocket, and didn’t make much profit from them. Not until the late 1920s did Thoreau get the praise he deserved. Today, Thoreau is regarded as one of the most important American writers, both for the clarity of his style and for his views on nature and politics. His memory is honored by the international Thoreau Society.