Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River Be Jubilant, My Feet Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Reuben wades to the shore of a river he knows he's crossed. He tells the reader that he has no notion of identity or burden, and no language. He hears a hum and a variety of birds fly up out of tall grasses. He spreads his arms and runs through the meadow. As Reuben enters an orchard he realizes he must appear before "the master," who is aware that Reuben is here.
While throughout the novel Reuben has experienced glimpses of God on earth, he now experiences God (the master) in the Garden of Eden. God is all knowing and continues to guide Reuben towards his final destination.
Themes
Religion Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
As he walks through the orchard, the thought "Adam" comes to his mind. Reuben looks across a valley and sees a man dressed as a Spanish knight, running. Reuben begins to hear the "pulse of the country," which he soon recognizes as music. He thinks of the line "O be quick, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!" and he runs forward and sings with the song of the country.
The line Reuben mentions is from "Battle Hymn of the Republic," the song that Dad sang the morning they met Roxanna. The particular verse mentions God calling everyone to Him for judgment, which Reuben realizes is what's going to happen.
Themes
Religion Theme Icon
The orchard comes to an end and Reuben spots a man running by a stream. He recognizes the man as Jeremiah Land, and remembers what happened before they found themselves in this country. Dad and Reuben greet each other, notice how strong they both are, and Dad comments that Reuben is as big as he is. Reuben sees that Dad is proud of him, but sees too that Dad knows something Reuben doesn't.
Even in this supernatural country, Dad knows more than Reuben does. This suggests that Dad is more present in this place than Reuben is, indicating that Reuben will be sent back. For the first time, however, Reuben is strong and able to breathe. He finally accomplishes his goal of breathing thanks to Mr. Waltzer's shot.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Dad suggests they run and they take off towards the “master.” When they reach a deep spot next to the stream, they see that far beyond the stream is a city. Surrounding the city is a great plain with rivers of people heading towards the city. Dad and Reuben watch and listen. Dad holds Reuben's hand and tells him to take care of Swede and to work for Roxanna. Reuben thinks he wants to join the rivers of people, but Dad tells Reuben to tell Davy about this place. Dad then jumps into the river, singing, and Reuben watches him disappear.
While Dad dies for Reuben specifically, his dying wish is that Reuben goes on as Dad's disciple to share the beauty and power of religion with Davy so that Davy might be able to find some of the comfort that religion can provide. The novel itself is proof that Reuben took Dad's wish a step further and shared the story with everyone, doubters and believers alike.
Themes
Religion Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Get the entire Peace Like a River LitChart as a printable PDF.
Peace like a river.pdf.medium