All the Years of Her Life

by Morley Callaghan

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Describe Alfred's relationship with his mother before the incident in "All the Years of Her Life."

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The relationship between Alfred and his mother, prior to this incident, is typical of a protective, worrisome mother and her immature, unfocused son. Alfred resents being condescended to by his mother and any authority figures such as Mr. Carr. When his mother is on her way to the store, he reveals his conception of her as an irrational, overly dramatic, disapproving mother. 

Alfred knew how his mother would come rushing in; she would rush in with her eyes blazing, or maybe she would be crying, and she would push him away when he tried to talk to her and make him feel her dreadful contempt; yet he longed that she might come before Mr. Carr saw a cop on the beat passing the door. 

Alfred wanted his mother to come if only to avoid being arrested. But he assumed that his mother would barge in, belittle him, and only make a frustrated attempt to get him out of this jam. However, his mother comes in calmly and takes command of the situation with humble confidence. By the end of the story, Alfred has an epiphany. It is clear that he has never really understood his mother or appreciated her. This could also be the first indication Alfred has ever gotten about what it must be like to be a parent. Because of these and perhaps other realizations, Alfred grows up at this moment as, "his youth seemed to be over." The story ends with the possibility that their relationship will be different as a result of Alfred's moment of maturation and new-found appreciation for his mother. 

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