The Owl Service

by Alan Garner
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What kind of person is Gwyn's mom in The Owl Service?

Gwyn's mother, Nancy, is filled with bitterness and resentment. She tries to control her son completely due to her own insecurity, and she is always threatening to quit her job in order to gain attention and feel more powerful.

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In The Owl Service by Alan Garner, Gwyn's mother, Nancy, is a bitter, resentful woman who tries her best to control her son in every possible way. Nancy tells Gwyn all about the Welsh valley where she grew up. The valley is the center of all her stories, and Gwyn feels like he knows it as well as she does, even though he has never seen it before they go to live there so his mother can take a job. Nancy has left out a few details, however. She has never explained to him that she once wanted to marry the owner of the house in which she will now work, and she is sour because she was rejected. Nancy has also never told Gwyn about Huw Halfbacon, the gardener and handyman, who just happens to be Gwyn's father. Nancy, it seems, is good at keeping her secrets.

Nancy stifles Gwyn, trying to keep him from associating with Alison and Roger. She wants him completely under her influence. At once point, she even threatens to stop his education. Nancy is so insecure that she clings to her son as the center of her world, unwilling to allow him to become independent. Gwyn, of course, develops a strong resentment of his own about this, even calling his mother a “cow” at one point.

Nancy also bears resentment toward Margaret and Alison, for they own the house that Nancy feels she should have been the mistress of. Nancy is always threatening to quit and must be paid more money to stay and work. She probably does this to gain attention. She is a miserable woman, and she wants everyone to recognize it and to kowtow to her. This makes her feel powerful even though she is not powerful at all, and she knows it.

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