(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Nun’s Mother” begins with a sense of finality, of something already completed. Maud and Luke Latimer are seated in a taxi moving away from the convent where their daughter, and only child, now resides. The narrator of the story is Maud Latimer; her interior monologue traces how and why this event occurred and what the consequences will be for the major characters in the story.

The first response to this new situation by Maud is an unexpected one. In contrast to the visible grief of her husband, Luke, she feels some “relief” that it is over. Maud suspects that Luke is brooding about some imagined medieval horrors of the nunnery. In contrast, she is comfortable with such an institution and the “curious streak of chastity” in women. Once the unfamiliarity and strangeness of this event have been overcome, Maud begins to probe the consequences more deeply. First of all, it will close certain options for her. It will mean “no more fun out shopping” for her after her daughter has gone, no need to make plans, no need to collect such things as silver for a future bride, no need “to remain young.”

She also wonders what problems her new title, a nun’s mother, will bring her. Will she have to change her manner of dress, will she have to “smoke only in a cupboard,” will she have to play an unfamiliar and uncomfortable role? In contrast to this disturbing prospect, she imagines that Luke will become accustomed to his role, even like it. He will “quite like going up to Mount St. Joseph and walking around with his cool, stately daughter . . . with a high, firm virgin bust.”

After brooding on the effects of their new position, she begins to think once more about why her daughter chose to become a nun. She recalls Luke’s sudden response, “Angela?” and his insistent question, “Are you sure she knows her own mind?” In fact, Maud is not at all sure that her daughter knows her own mind. Maud tells Luke, however, that “her mind is quite made up.” The reason for this misrepresentation is that she has been unable to communicate with her daughter about what she is giving up by entering the convent. Maud cannot bring...

(The entire section is 890 words.)