What is the main conflict in the story “Mom Luby and the Social Worker”?

The main conflict in “Mom Luby and the Social Worker” is Mom Luby’s struggle to care for her two foster children. This would be considered a man-versus-society conflict, because Mom Luby struggles to get what she needs from a complex social system.

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Kristin Hunter’s short story “Mom Luby and the Social Worker” is about an elderly woman called “Mom Luby” who cares for two foster children named Elijah and Puddin’.

Mom Luby hopes to get more social welfare money to take care of the children, so a social worker named Miss...

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Kristin Hunter’s short story “Mom Luby and the Social Worker” is about an elderly woman called “Mom Luby” who cares for two foster children named Elijah and Puddin’.

Mom Luby hopes to get more social welfare money to take care of the children, so a social worker named Miss Rushmore comes to evaluate if Mom Luby qualifies for aid. She questions Mom Luby’s caretaking abilities, like why she doesn’t buy clothes or better food for the children. She also explains that Mom Luby is going to have to go back to the Welfare Office and fill out more forms.

Mom Luby tries to explain how busy she is and that she does not have time to fulfill all of the requirements for assistance. To prove this, she even takes Miss Rushmore out with her throughout the day, and Miss Rushmore reflects that Mom Luby gets more done in one day than she gets done in two years. However, Miss Rushmore ultimately says that Mom Luby does not qualify for state aid, leaving Mom Luby struggling.

In literature, conflicts are often grouped into types, including man versus man, man versus self, and man versus society. The conflict in this story would be considered man versus society, because Mom Luby is struggling with social systems and rules that prevent her from getting the money she needs. Recall how in the end, she reflects on Miss Rushmore's point:

She got a point though … You need an education to fill out forty pieces of paper for one pair of shoes.

This quote sums up Mom Luby’s problem and the problem of so many other people. People who are of low socioeconomic means can often only benefit from social systems put in place to help them if they have a lot of free time and are educated enough to understand the complex requirements. However, people who are really struggling financially often do not have these things and end up unable to get the help they need.

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