Everything I Never Told You

Pdf fan
Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Doris Walker Character Analysis

Doris Walker is Marilyn’s mother. Doris’ unnamed husband leaves her when Marilyn is three, yet she continues to perform the role of a perfect housewife, wearing makeup at all times and cooking elaborate meals and desserts. She is a home economics teacher at Marilyn’s high school and is obsessed with the Betty Crocker cookbook. When she meets James at his and Marilyn’s wedding, she tells Marilyn not to marry him because he is Chinese; after this point, she and her daughter never see each other again. After Doris dies, Marilyn notes that Doris’ house bears no trace of Doris’ existence.

Doris Walker Quotes in Everything I Never Told You

The Everything I Never Told You quotes below are all either spoken by Doris Walker or refer to Doris Walker. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Everything I Never Told You published in 2015.
Chapter 2 Quotes

Newcomers to the school district assumed Mrs. Walker was a widow. Her mother herself never mentioned it. She still powdered her nose after cooking and before eating she still put on lipstick before coming downstairs to make breakfast. So they called it keeping house for a reason, Marilyn thought. Sometimes it did run away.

Related Characters: Marilyn Lee, Doris Walker
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, the narrator describes Marilyn’s mother Doris, who is a total contrast to her daughter. Whereas Marilyn wants to take shop instead of home economics and dreams of becoming a doctor, Doris is the school’s home economics teacher and a proud housewife. In her classroom, Doris teaches girls how to “keep house,” a phrase Marilyn finds odd. However, Marilyn’s father left the family when she was three, and in this passage Marilyn observes that perhaps “keeping house” is a more apt phrase than it first appears. This observation emphasizes the theme of appearances versus disappearances—Doris works ardently to make it appear as though everything in her family is normal, but she cannot change the truth that her husband left her. This raises the question of whom Doris’ performance is intended to serve—Marilyn? Doris herself? The absent figure of Doris’ husband? This passage also shows that, early on in Marilyn’s life, she saw home as an unstable and even oppressive place. These associations with home will haunt Marilyn’s future and inform some of her more irrational-seeming actions.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Everything I Never Told You quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 4 Quotes

When Nath had been born, then Lydia, Marilyn had not informed her mother, had not even sent a photograph. What was there to say? She and James had never discussed what her mother had said about their marriage that last day: it's not right. She had not ever wanted to think of it again. So when James came home that night, she said simply, "My mother died." Then she turned back to the stove and added, "And the lawn needs mowing," and he understood: they would not talk about it.

Related Characters: Lydia Lee, Marilyn Lee, James Lee, Nath Lee, Doris Walker
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

After Doris’ disapproving comments at Marilyn and James’ wedding, Marilyn never talks to her mother again, and when Nath and Lydia are young children, she gets a call informing her that Doris has died of a stroke. This passage describes Marilyn’s reaction to her mother’s death, revealing Marilyn’s profound and sustained anger at Doris. It also illustrates the extent to which Marilyn shuts out the memory of her mother. Not only does she never speak to Doris again, but she also refuses to mention Doris to James and the children. Marilyn enters a state of denial about her mother, making Doris “disappear” from her life even before she is actually dead.

Early in their relationship, Marilyn and James establish a pact not to discuss the past, and this mutual understanding brings them closer together. However, the novel calls into question how sustainable such a pact could be, since it involves such extreme suppression. Not only does Marilyn cut off Doris completely, she also prohibits any opportunity for her children to know their own grandmother. Although this specific instance arguably prevents the children from the possibility of experiencing racism at the hands of their own grandmother, Marilyn’s repression and silence are part of a behavioral pattern that ultimately comes to have a damaging impact on the Lee family.

Chapter 10 Quotes

"I am disappointed." Marilyn's head snaps up. "l thought you were different." What she means is: I thought you were better than other men. I thought you wanted better than that. But James, still thinking of Marilyn's mother, hears something else.

"You got tired of different, didn't you?" he says. "I'm too different. Your mother knew it right away. You think it's such a good thing, standing out. But look at you. Just look at you."

Related Characters: Marilyn Lee (speaker), James Lee (speaker), Doris Walker
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:

Marilyn has discovered James’ affair, and has been spitefully questioning him about Louisa. She even suggests that Louisa would make a “nice little wife” and says that Doris spent her life trying to make Marilyn into the kind of woman that Louisa is. The mention of Doris infuriates James, who points out how much of a “disappointment” he was to Marilyn’s mother. In this passage, both James and Marilyn speak about disappointment, but mean two completely different things. Crucially, Marilyn does not fully explain her reasons for feeling disappointed in James, instead silently thinking “I thought you were better than other men.” This allows James to convince himself that Marilyn’s disappointment is not rooted in his affair, but in his race.

James also assumes that because Marilyn is white, she does not really know what it means to stand out, and thus cannot be said to have truly desired it. To some extent, James’ words suggest that he preemptively pushed Marilyn away on account of his belief that she would eventually grow tried of him. In reality, Marilyn has not grown tired of being marked as “different” due to her interracial marriage, but rather she is demoralized by playing the role of housewife and learning that James has cheated on her regardless of her sacrifices for their family. To Marilyn, the fact that she and James have collapsed into gender stereotypes is the greatest disappointment of all.

You loved so hard and hoped so much and then you ended up with nothing. Children who no longer needed you. A husband who no longer wanted you. Nothing left but you, alone, and empty space.

Related Characters: Marilyn Lee, James Lee, Doris Walker
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:

Marilyn and James’ argument has come to a dramatic conclusion and Marilyn has ordered James to leave the house. After he goes, Marilyn sits and thinks about all the years Doris spent alone before her death. Suddenly, Marilyn feels a strong sense of identification with her mother’s isolation. Despite all the years of love, care, and work that both women put into their family life, both end up alienated from those closest to them.

Marilyn arguably exaggerates her own status as an innocent victim of her family’s desertion here; it was, after all, she who abandoned her family before her family abandoned her. On the other hand, Marilyn’s point about isolation speaks to more fundamental truths than just her own particular situation. Throughout the book, family life is shown to be more fragile than is commonly assumed, and Lydia’s death (and its consequences) highlight how easily family ties can be broken, cutting members of a family off from one another.

Get the entire Everything I Never Told You LitChart as a printable PDF.
Everything i never told you.pdf.medium

Doris Walker Character Timeline in Everything I Never Told You

The timeline below shows where the character Doris Walker appears in Everything I Never Told You. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...instead of home economics. Home ec was required of all sophomore girls, and Marilyn’s mother, Doris Walker, was the teacher. Marilyn had been at the top of her class since sixth... (full context)
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
Doris grew up eighty miles from Charlottesville and has never left her hometown. When Marilyn is... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...it’s too far, but, in fact, she worries about what she would (or wouldn’t) tell Doris about her relationship with James. Marilyn explains to James that Doris is a home ec... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
Marilyn phones Doris and tells her that she and James are getting married. She explains that James is... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
On the day of the wedding, Doris takes Marilyn aside to “touch up [her] lipstick.” Doris is already upset that Marilyn is... (full context)
Chapter 4
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...and mother. She is irritated by the knowledge that her life turned out exactly how Doris wanted. James insists that they go to the Christmas party, as he is up for... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...but Marilyn secretly keeps Tom’s number. In April, Marilyn gets a call informing her that Doris has died. Marilyn has not spoken to her mother since her wedding day, and she... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...of herself as a child, but none of her mother. There is no evidence of Doris’ existence at all except her beloved Betty Crocker cookbook. Marilyn takes note of which passages... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
The next morning, Marilyn calls a company that will remove the rest of Doris’ belongings. Marilyn wonders where all of Doris’ things will go, and concludes that it is... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...next night, Marilyn concocts an elaborate plan. She will take her mother’s savings and, after Doris’ house sells, the additional money from that. This will be enough to fund her for... (full context)
Chapter 6
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
...Now that Marilyn is gone, James thinks about the past obsessively and is haunted by Doris’ opposition to their marriage. He reads Marilyn’s note again and again, hoping that it will... (full context)
Chapter 8
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...of this would have happened,” because Lydia would have “fit in.” He tells Marilyn that Doris was right, that they should never have married. (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
Back in the present, Marilyn frets over James’ angry words. When she told James about Doris’ disapproval on their wedding day, she never imagined it would affect him like this. She... (full context)
Chapter 10
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...“nice little wife.” She says she knows Louisa’s “type,” claiming it’s the type of woman Doris hoped Marilyn would be. James is infuriated by Marilyn’s mention of her mother, recalling the... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...drives away too. Upstairs, Marilyn sits in Lydia’s room and thinks of all the years Doris spent alone in her house. Marilyn rips in half the postcard of Einstein she gave... (full context)