Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Gordon focuses on two interrelated themes, family and religion, which she conveys chiefly through characterization. First, she examines the strength of the traditional, ideal family by presenting three different groups: the Posts, the Corcorans, and the Fosters. Although the Post family is structurally traditional (two parents, two children), it is clearly destructive, by virtue of the parents’ conscious rejection of one child, who eventually becomes psychotic. The Corcorans are not destructive, yet they are a less than ideal family in that the wife and mother is an invalid, unable to perform her domestic and maternal duties. In effect, Ed has become a single parent, since he must take full charge of his four-year-old son. Finally, the Fosters seem to match the stereotype of the ideal American family: two highly educated and devoted parents, a pleasant physical environment, and a home atmosphere that shelters the children from harsh realities. After Michael leaves for France, however, the Fosters’ family strength begins to falter. Anne tries to seduce her electrician, an action she would never take were her husband at home. Moreover, she lies to Ed that Michael is having an affair himself.

Until Laura’s suicide, Anne, the ideal mother, is able to protect her children from all things unpleasant or frightening. On the other hand, the little Corcoran boy lives each day with a nonfunctional, brain-damaged mother whose very appearance is somewhat...

(The entire section is 562 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The multiple examples of motherhood dominate the story. Anne Foster is an educated woman and a "good" mother, the reader understands. Her...

(The entire section is 408 words.)