Everything I Never Told You

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Eggs Symbol Icon

One of the sections of Doris’ Betty Crocker cookbook that has the greatest impact on Marilyn is entitled “Basic Eggs.” It instructs housewives to know all six “basic ways” to make an egg and to learn their husband’s preferred style. Despite Marilyn’s resistance to this whole concept, she does make eggs for each member of her family in their favorite style: “Sunny-side up for James. Hard-boiled for Nath. Scrambled for Lydia.” Eggs thus represent the thoughtful and often painstaking work that goes into being a wife and mother—work that Marilyn comes to resent as pointless and banal. When Marilyn “disappears” to Toldeo, Nath is heartbroken that there is no one around to make him a hard-boiled egg, as this represents to him the care and stability that he craves. Indeed, eggs are a common symbol of reproduction, the family, and the future. In being so dismissive of the work of making eggs, perhaps Marilyn undervalues the importance of caring for her family (even if this work is less conventionally glamorous or impressive than being a doctor).

Eggs Quotes in Everything I Never Told You

The Everything I Never Told You quotes below all refer to the symbol of Eggs. 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 6 Quotes

NaOH became Nath, his small face wide-eyed and reproachful. One morning, consulting the periodic table, instead of helium she thought He and James's face floated up in her mind. Other days, the messages were more subtle: a typo in the textbook––"the common acids, egg. nitric, acetic . . ."—left her in tears, thinking of hard-boiled, sunnyside up, scrambled.

Related Characters: Marilyn Lee, James Lee, Nath Lee
Related Symbols: Eggs
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

In many ways, Marilyn’s disappearance to Toledo is turning out exactly as she’d hoped. The logistical matters of enrolling in community college and securing accommodation have all gone according to plan, and Marilyn relishes the opportunity to return to academic work. However, this passage describes Marilyn’s intense longing for her family, as she is unable to put the thought of them out of her mind even as she is focused on her studies. The disdain that she once felt about cooking eggs in the different styles that each member of her family prefers has turned to a painful sense of longing for this act of love and togetherness.

Note, however, that even as Marilyn is haunted by thoughts of her family, she doesn’t quite seem to feel guilty about leaving. Although she misses her husband and children fiercely, Marilyn still doesn’t seem to feel that what she has done is wrong. This suggests that, although Marilyn loves her family, her resentment of the traditional role of a housewife is perhaps even greater than that love.

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She followed him all the way to the lake and to the end of the little pier. The houses on the other side of the water looked like dollhouses, tiny and scaled-down and perfect. Inside, mothers were boiling eggs or baking cakes or making pot roasts, or maybe fathers were poking the coals in the barbecue,

turning the hot dogs with a fork so that the grill made perfect black lines all over. Those mothers had never gone far away and left their children behind. Those fathers had never slapped their children or kicked over the television or laughed at them.

Related Characters: Lydia Lee, Marilyn Lee, James Lee, Nath Lee
Related Symbols: Water/Swimming/the Lake, Eggs
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

James has driven Marilyn back to Toledo to collect her belongings from the apartment she’d been renting, leaving Nath and Lydia with Mrs. Allen, who promptly falls asleep in front of the television, leaving the children to wander off to the lake unaccompanied. This passage describes what Nath and Lydia can see when they gaze across the lake—rows of “dollhouses” in which the children imagine happy families free of abnormality and strife. Note that this domestic happiness is imagined in terms of food, a recurrent theme throughout the book. Although making eggs and grilling hot dogs are simple, everyday acts, they represent the stability, care, and normalcy that are missing from Nath and Lydia’s lives.

The fact that the houses are on the other side of the lake emphasizes the notion that the Lees are barred from accessing this happiness and normalcy by a mysterious and powerful force. However, this distance also means that Nath and Lydia do not see the real truth of the lives of the people who live on the other side of the lake. Although the houses look idyllic from a distance, this appearance could be deceiving. In all likelihood, the families in those houses may be suffering from similar problems to the Lees.

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Eggs Symbol Timeline in Everything I Never Told You

The timeline below shows where the symbol Eggs appears in Everything I Never Told You. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
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
...through cooking. The book argues that all wives should know their husband’s preferred style of egg and that there is no “deeper sense of satisfaction” than having an organized, well-stocked kitchen.... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...of her own life and how it is “possible to spend so many hours cooking eggs,” each family member getting them in their favorite style. Marilyn steps out into the rain... (full context)
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
Back in Middlewood, James is unable to cook eggs properly for the children, who constantly ask when Marilyn is coming home. James takes Nath... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...any mention of the racist language. Nath, meanwhile, furiously asks his mother for a hard-boiled egg, which causes her to burst into tears. Marilyn remains in a terrible mood all day... (full context)
Chapter 6
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Silence Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...sigh,” thinking that his mother’s reappearance will mean the return of lavish dinners and hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...care about his interest in outer space. That morning, he’d asked Marilyn for a hard-boiled egg, and to his delight she’d said yes; however, as soon as Lydia came down and... (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
...welcome-back picnic at the beginning of the school year, Nath and James enter the father-son egg race. They are in first place until Nath trips and breaks his egg before the... (full context)
Chapter 8
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
...eat. James barks at his son for wasting power; Nath, who is holding a hard-boiled egg in his hand, apologizes. James is suddenly aware that he smells of Louisa’s perfume, and... (full context)
Appearances vs. Disappearances Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Loneliness, Exclusion, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Expectations, Ambition, and Disappointment Theme Icon
...late. Nath punches the countertop and runs out of the kitchen. James notices a smashed egg lying on the counter. In the morning, James sees it is July 3rd; this used... (full context)