Dolores Claiborne

by Stephen King

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Dolores Claiborne is a telling choice for the name of his heroine. Dolores comes from the Latin "dolor" or "to suffer." Claiborne, her maiden name which she reassumes after Joe's death, is derived from Old English, meaning "born of clay." Both reflect her humble beginnings. This is a narrative of suffering and of weakness or, referring to a dominant metaphor in the novel, of eclipsed lives. Both Dolores and Vera are women who make painful decisions, act on them, and live with the consequences.

Dolores is unimpeded by circumstances in her love for her children. Typically, King's characters rarely experience parental love, since their parents are usually absent or selfishly preoccupied. Others experience madness and violence from their parents, who in various ways sacrifice their children to their unfathomable and insatiable needs. Dolores also rises above circumstances in her practical, enduring friendship with Vera Donovan. Their first common ground is that they are both vigilant mothers with destructive husbands. After Dolores breaks down and cries about Joe's molestation of Selena, Vera allows Dolores to call her by her first name, and comments tellingly that tragic accidents can be a woman's best friend. Though they are not particularly warm or confiding, they trust each other enough to consider murder together and confess to each other their deepest fears.

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