Marie, as the narrator of her own story, is unremittingly honest as she explores the memories of a bleak childhood and her struggle to persevere and forge a decent life for herself. The process she undergoes requires a critical eye and a frank appraisal: She is trying to become a whole person in a fragmented and destructive world. Marie finds explanations for her own behavior and that of others in the conditions of life which they experience. If people are wanting, it is an effect of circumstance and not a lack of human impulse.
The failure of Marie’s mother to rebel against the brutality of her husband is not a result of a weak will; rather, she has been rendered powerless to change her situation. In one rare instance, she refuses to let him control her and will not reveal how she voted; as a consequence, he leaves her. Any sense of autonomy that she might have derived from the coming of women’s suffrage is completely negated by the fact that, once her husband leaves, she is even less able than before to meet her family’s basic needs. Her triumph becomes a failure as it reveals her economic powerlessness.
Marie’s father, unlike his wife, continues to believe that he can take some control over his desperate situation. He lives in dreams and stories and persists in believing that success will come in the next mining camp or business venture. His descent into alcoholism and delusional thinking is a result of his inability to overcome the powerful...
(The entire section is 603 words.)