Why are many of the characters uncomfortable with the conversation about predestination? Predestination is one of the thorniest elements of Calvinism, and by extension of the Congregationalist faith. It asserts that human beings are predestined for either heaven or hell, that damnation is caused by sin, and that only God can give salvation. It is controversial because it does not seem to allow free will or autonomy. Glory and Boughton openly express their concern about talking about this subject, which Jack brings up, because it often leads to fights and misunderstanding.
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There are many father and son relationships in this novel: Ames's father and his grandfather; Ames and his father; Ames and his son; Boughton and his son; and Ames and Jack Boughton, a variation on the father-and-son relationship. Most of these relationships are fraught, filled with tension, misunderstanding, frustration, and occasionally antipathy. Some of them are healthier than others; some put their problems front and center, while others repress their true feelings for the sake of harmony. There often seems an impassable gulf between the men, although there is indeed affection and love. Ames's quasi father-son relationship with Jack occupies a central place in the novel, as he will not be able to have an adult relationship with his own son.