"His father … sat at the table with the enormous Bible open before him, waiting fiercely till the family should be sitting in proper rigidity. He read then from the Second Book of Samuel, as though he were the High Sheriff challenging pestilent rebels … Uriel smacked his lips. Aaron reflected that his father did indeed sound like a man of war, a bear in the fields, as he prayed … Aaron was uncomfortable and a little afraid. This, he thought, is how God might pray to his God." Chapter 1, pp. 5-6.
"Reverand Lucius Fairlow …[was] a mild-spoken young-old man with mild chestnut hair and a mild chestnut mustache and a conservative theology which stuck mildly to the pleasant certainties of God's anger and eternal hellfire." Chapter 2, p. 9.
"Aaron had learned … from Mr. Fairlow's two-hour sermons on 'The Jealousy of an Angry Jehovah Who Hath Weighed Sinners in the Balance and Found Them Wanting,' … that God was a torturer who punished small boys for sins they might commit later." Chapter 3, p. 15.
"The Popplewoods … believed that good sense from a child was not necessarily contemptible beside foolishness from a grown-up." Chapter 3, p.15.
"'Life ain't fn. When you think that most of us are doomed by divine grace to roast in hell, to say nothing of mortgages and hail and bad crops and extravagent womenfolks, 'tain't any laughing matter!'" (Uriel) Chapter 3, p. 17.
"It might be the doing of Satan, in whom Aaron anxiously believed with all of his being except, perhaps, his mind." Chapter 4, p. 24.
"He told himself that he had been misled … But it was of no use. That particular sort of coward and evader he was not, and he lay abed facing all his sins, all his slacknesses, and the merited punishment by a just and angry God." Chatper 5, p. 32.
"Deacon Uriel Gadd was a man of integrity, granite-rough and lichen-coated. The punishment in his rheumatism, clearly sent of God, and the defection of his son Elijah, had weakened him only in making him somewhat less contemptuous of his sentimental son Aaron. All other persons he divided into fools, scoundrels and the blessedly elect, with only himself indisputably in the last class." Chapter 6, p. 33.
"'The Lord ain't deef! Son, I want you to good and plenty meditate and realize that it's only in the secret recesses of the soul that the battle is waged, and not in no hell-hollerin' hullabaloo!'" (Uriel) Chapter 6, p. 34.
"Hours then of blasphemy and fury and debate, all in the theological terms that seem shocking to the literate citizens today, who believe in God but just don't care to mention him or any of the other lowly friends they knew before they went to Yale." Chapter 6, p. 36.
"Everything seemed confused and contradictory, and he longed for one clear command from a divine martinet." Chapter 7, p. 38.
"Upright citizens trying to strike a balance between a look of salvation and a look of bank-credit." Chapter 7, p. 38.
"He read the Bible for hours — that is, his eyesight passed faithfully from word to word, even if his brain didn't … His most precious indulgence was permitting himself (though he was not quite certain that he might not get into trouble with heaven for it) to skip the begats and the cubits, and revel in the tales of Job and Ruth and Abraham." Chapter 12, pp. 71–72.
"Quiet, controlled, suspended, Aaron waited for the visions. And they did creep slowly across the lighted ground-glass field of his mind, but they were singularl unspiritual … He saw the new auger that his boss had bought, and wished he had one … He saw Nadine's way of drinking cider, with small tentative screams, and felt warm and happy about seeing her, and to chase her out of his vision." Chapter 12, pp. 72–73.
"Maybe he was not a good-enough Christian to get the proper zest out of mortifying his indolent flesh." Chapter 15, p. 92.
"As they steamed on to Prairie du Chien, Noah quivered with a crusade. He was certain that they could not get in by Saturday evening, that they would be steaming on Sunday, and he planned to summon a mass meeting of the passengers and explain how much viler was Sabbath-breaking than incest or murder." Chapter 16, p. 93.
"His meditations … drove Aaron to demand of himself what … he veritably believed. What was his vision of God? Had he truly been seeking him, had he found him?" Chapter 16, p. 94.
"'Now we got a lawyer, we got civilization, which I understand to mean that a man has a chance to get rich without working.'" (Man in St. Paul, 1848) Chapter 17, pp. 104–105.
"The more the Dakota have to do with the white, the worse. The whites give him whiskey to get his furs and bimeby he don't want to trap so many furst but he want plenty more whiskey. The white traders take his girl, and all he get in swap is a disease. They take his land, and all he get is a leetle annuity so he don't do any work and starve slow. The Indian gets white man's gun an he is drunk and kill his own brother and they call him sinful. That's what he get from the white man — fine kettle, fine gun, fine blanket, the big pox, the small pox and religion.'" (Voyager in Minnesota) Chapter 20, pp. 128–129.
"'Brother Hopkins, do you suppose the whites, with their whiskey, are responsible for a degeneration of the Indians? Does the religion we bring make up for the evil we bring?'" (Aaron) Chapter 20, p. 130.
"'My gracious sakes alive! So many of you young tenderfoot missionaries go and bother your heads about that question … There are ungoldy white folks out here that sell licker, but the Injuns don't have to take it and swim in it, do they? No, no! They won't listen to the missionaries, and see that they only have to start plowing and put on pantaloons and accept the Gospel.'" (Hopkins, in response to Aaron) Chapter 20, p. 130.
"There were a few small structures: a frame chapel with a tiny steeple; two frame houses, one notably the larger; a house of whitewashed logs; a corncrib and two log buildings which might have been stables, workshops or warehouses: altogether, seven primitive shelters, huddled beside the union of the waters, stray commas on the unwritten pages of the wilderness." Chapter 2, p. 132.
"This was a place of industry and strict duty, a place in whch to get through life carefully, without offending God." Chapter 21, p. 133.
"Anna and Jake, with Huldah, taught spinning, weaving, dressmaking, cooking to the Indian girls, farming and washing the face to the boys … except that mostly the adult Indians did not wish their children to learn these arts from the emissaries of what they astonishingly considered an alien, false and hostile God." Chapter 21, p. 135.
"But as they talked around the fire in the sitting-room, he was embarrassed by the nakedness of their piety." Chapter 22, p. 146.
"When he gets uppity about his supposed learning, I just take it on myself to remind him that God and his angels know almost as much as college professors!" Chatper 23, p. 152.
"He prayed, 'Lord God, let us be the kind of Christians that you would be if you were a Christian.'" Chapter 24, p. 156.
"I've got to learn all the words … and learn to taste them without getting drunk on them." Chapter 28, p. 185.
"Aaron began to learn the Dakota language. Isaac, like a newly ordained Doctor of Philosophy, after years of being nagged into learning, rejoiced to be invited to stand up and look important and teach. He was astonished by his own erudition and by the fact that his class of one did not walk out … Aaron and he did not labor over syntax. They clove to the theory that 'Me want bed and cow-meat' will get a traveler all he needs in any language." Chapter 31, p. 206.
"He fretted that he did not know anything. He sighed, 'I have sought the Kingdom of God a little, the Squire has sought it terribly, but we haven't even a map, and after what I saw this afternoon, I know the Sioux are as barbarous as we are. Is it possible that nobody has ever known — that there never has been a completely civilized man, and won't be for another thousand years?'" (Aaron) Chapter 33, p. 220.
"Indians, of course, have no 'theology,' and indeed no word for the system of credulity in which the white priests arrange for God, who must be entirely bewildered by it, a series of excuses for his faulures." Chapter 41, p. 267.
"'We should adopt Jesus boldy, and send missionaries to explain him to the whites, except that no Indian except one very old and sick and never much good in warfare would be pompous enough to tell alien peoples what he thinks they should believe.'" (Black Wolf) Chapter 41, p. 272.
"He had unhappily noticed at the mission that when he had most hotly prayed, it had been a way of escaping a decision, of frivolously passing the lot to God." Chapter 50, p. 332.
"'I've sat at the preachers' feet and listened to them, faithfully, and tried to make myself become what they said I ought to be. I'm through! I do my own thinking now and my own bossing.'" (Aaron) Chapter 51, p. 346.
"But it did seem sounder to build houses which he could build than to teach children a gospel which he did not altogether understand in a Sioux language which he could not quite speak. He reflected, 'If I could put over some kind of equality for Mark Shadrock and Black Wolf, that would be enough heavenly progress for me.'" (Aaron) Chaper 53, p. 354.
"I don't believe in fear of divine vengeance, and I do believe in justice and equality … '" (Aaron) Chapter 57, p. 379.
"'An ugly woodshed that's there, right on the ground, is handsomer to me than a ten-story temple that isn't there.'" (Aaron) Chapter 57, p. 379.
"I have faith in Faith, I have reverence for all true Reverence.'" (Reverand Rip Tattam) Chapter 59, p. 391.
'"All associations make me feel crowded … I fear organization and authority. I can love your unions while they're persecuted, but I shall fear them when they take possession of all virtue.'" (Reverand Rip Tattum) Chapter 60, pp. 397–398.