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Chapter 14 diverges from the narrative for a remembrance from Steinbeck about his mother, Olive Hamilton. None of the Hamilton daughters “were destined to become work-destroyed farm girls.” Olive chose to be a teacher, one of the most respected professions a young woman could have in her day.
Olive taught for several years, but wanted a more “metropolitan life.” She married Ernest Steinbeck, a city boy with a city job, and raised her family. Steinbeck recalls what kind of woman and mother she had been. She had an abhorrence of debt that she passed on to her children. She didn’t like unpleasantness. When John contracted pleural pneumonia, she tried everything from Christianity to mysticism to make him better. She was not a coddler, however. As soon as John was well, she insisted he get up.
Olive was brave too. She would rather be afraid than lose face or disappoint people. When Olive wins a ride in a fighter jet for selling the most war bonds, she is afraid but doesn’t want to disappoint her family. Not a small woman, Olive wedges herself into the narrow seat and prepares for take-off. She endures the ride with grim reluctance. She mishears the pilot who asks if she wants to do a stunt, thinking he had asked if she was “stuck.” Olive gives him the “thumbs up” and is plunged into frightful rolls and turns. Even tenacious Olive has her limits. Once safely aground, she goes to bed for two days.
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