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The mother is, along with Emily, a major character who like most parents is vulnerable to doubt about the way she has raised her child. In the story the mother cites many occasions of regret—the separations, illnesses, instances of negligence and even neglect, and fears. Her narrative is laced with poignant memories of pain and helplessness (see paragraphs (24, 29, 30, and 35). It is these which make plain that the conflict in the story is the ideal vs. the actual upbringing of Emily, the daughter, with the complementary conflict being that the expected negative results do not occur but rather that Emily grows up to be a vital, talented young woman. The affirmative paragraphs near the end (paragraphs 46–50) are not totally negated by the moderately pessimistic conclusion (paragraphs 54, 55), for these last two may be considered a function of the anguish and self-doubt that never leave a caring parent. The mother, in this respect, is real.
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