How would you describe Thelma in Billie Letts' Where The Heart Is?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! When the main protagonist Novalee Nation is seventeen years old and pregnant, she is abandoned by her boyfriend, Willy Jack, at a local Walmart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma. Sister Thelma Husband takes Novalee into her home. She is a warm and friendly woman. She tells Novalee that "home is where your history begins." Novalee, a young woman abandoned by both her mother, Momma Nell, and her boyfriend, Willy Jack, finds true acceptance and love in Thelma's home. Although Thelma is a very religious woman (she habitually quotes Scripture), she is adamant that some people actually go to church too much. She tells Novalee that Sunday School, Bible Study and prayer meetings make up more than enough church-time:

"Ain't nobody so full of sin they need that much church."

When Novalee asks Thelma how she knew to come and pick her and the baby, Americus, up from the hospital, she answers,

"Why, darlin', the Lord has a way of telling us what we need to know."

Thelma is full of life, mischievous, and has a great sense of humor. When Novalee accidentally runs into the gas stove while trying to get to the bathroom one night, she tries hard not to curse. She desperately wants to maintain the image of the polite young woman to Thelma. However, when Thelma pours the Merthiolate (an antiseptic used to prevent infections from minor cuts, scrapes and burns) on her wounded shin, Novalee can't help but let lose an expletive in agony. When the silence becomes deafening, Thelma dead-pans,

"Darlin'... Didn't you forget to say please?"

With that, both laugh uproariously.

Thelma mothers and spoils Novalee with open generosity. When Novalee offers to help with the housework, Thelma leads her to the front porch swing to sit down. She makes sure to bring Novalee small gifts whenever she goes to town. Thelma provides Novalee with security, hope, and comfort. She shares her home and her income with Novalee until Novalee is able to get back on her feet. When Novalee is offered a job at the same Walmart where she lived, it is Thelma who babysits baby Americus. When Novalee wins her first photography contest, Thelma is as proud as any mother. She tells Novalee that she will become famous. Her support and continued encouragement allow Novalee to dream about a better life for her and her baby. Thelma is a woman anyone would be proud to have as a mother and mentor.

Thanks for the question.

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