In "All the Years of Her Life" what does the mother's trembling hand symbolize?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Morley Callaghan’s short story, “All the Years of Her Life,” Mrs. Higgins' trembling hand represents all of the trials and tribulations of her life. Although she is able to remain outwardly calm under duress, after the fact, her trembling hand signals the release of her emotions.

When Mr. Carr calls Mrs. Higgins to the pharmacy where her son works, the owner informs her that her son is a petty thief. She is able to reason with him so that he does not involve the police. This is not the first time her son had trouble keeping a job and his only reason for stealing was that he needed money to go out with his friends. As mother and son walk home, she shows her anger and asks him not to speak. When they reach home, she tells him to go to his room, almost as if he was a little boy. However, when he looks out at her making a cup of tea her hand is trembling. He realizes that he has seen her hand tremble at other times when she had to remain strong. “He watched his mother, and he never spoke, but at that moment his youth seemed to be over; he knew all the years of her life by the way her hand trembled as she raised the cup to her lips.” Suddenly, he sees his mother as a spent woman but more importantly, he begins to see himself as an adult.