Rocket Boys

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Elsie Lavender Hickam Character Analysis

The mother of Homer Hickam Jr. and the wife of Homer Hickam Sr., Elsie Lavender Hickam is an intelligent, ambitious, and supportive woman. She frequently quarrels with her husband about life in the mines. Although most of her family is involved in mining, she despises every aspect of the life of a miner. Largely for this reason, she encourages Homer to pursue his dreams of building rockets, as she believes that rocketry will help Homer attend college and escape the mines. Much like Homer himself, Elsie feels a curious distance between herself and Homer Sr. Her distance becomes literal as well as metaphorical at the end of Rocket Boys, when she announces that she’s moving to Myrtle Beach, far from the Coalwood mine.

Elsie Lavender Hickam Quotes in Rocket Boys

The Rocket Boys quotes below are all either spoken by Elsie Lavender Hickam or refer to Elsie Lavender Hickam . 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:
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dell edition of Rocket Boys published in 2000.
Chapter 3 Quotes

I didn’t know what to say. I just stared at her. She sighed. “To get out of here, you’ve got to show your dad you’re smarter than he thinks. I believe you can build a rocket. He doesn’t. I want you to show him I’m right and he’s wrong. Is that too much to ask?”

Related Characters: Homer Hickam Jr. (speaker), Elsie Lavender Hickam (speaker), Homer Hickam Sr.
Related Symbols: Rockets
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Homer's mother, Elsie, gives her son the encouragement he needs to build rockets. Elsie knows that Homer wants to design rockets, and she also recognizes that he wants to do so partly to impress his father, who's always turned a deaf ear to Homer's accomplishments. Elsie tells her son to build rockets to prove Homer Sr. wrong: to prove that Homer Jr.'s dreams of engineering aren't just dreams at all.

The quotation also sheds light on Elsie's motivations for encouraging Homer. While it's true that Elsie, like any loving mother, wants her son to succeed, there's also a more complicated side to her actions. As Homer Jr. makes clear throughout Rocket Boys, Elsie is frustrated with her life in Coalwood: she doesn't have many creative outlets, and she seems unable to discuss her problems with Homer Sr., since he's been living in Coalwood for years, and can't sympathize with her. In part, then, Elsie tells Homer Jr. to build rockets because Homer's success will be an outlet for her own frustrations: she wants her child to succeed and escape town because she can't.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Rocket Boys quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire Rocket Boys LitChart as a printable PDF.
Rocket boys.pdf.medium

Elsie Lavender Hickam Character Timeline in Rocket Boys

The timeline below shows where the character Elsie Lavender Hickam appears in Rocket Boys. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Coalwood
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...an intelligent man, and quickly promoted him to foreman. Hickam wrote to his high school sweetheart—Elsie Lavender—asking her to move to Coalwood and marry him. Elsie refused at first, but later... (full context)
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...him will either join the military or end up working in the coalmines. His mother, Elsie, doesn’t want him to end up in the mines. (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Elsie resents Homer Sr. for spending so much time in the mines. Her four brothers, Robert,... (full context)
Chapter 2: Sputnik
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...him much. It’s possible that Jim blames him for causing tension between their parents, as Elsie had wanted to have a daughter, but ended up with Homer. (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
On Oct 5, Elsie calls Homer to the radio and tells him to listen. The radio announces the launching... (full context)
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...Football Father’s Association. Homer Sr. is exceptionally proud of Jim’s athleticism, to the point that Elsie suggests that he isn’t proud enough of Homer. Homer, who’s nearsighted and physically weak, has... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...Sherman, O’Dell, and Roy Lee, to help him launch a rocket outside his house, near Elsie’s prized rose-garden fence. He builds the rocket using an empty flashlight tube, and punches a... (full context)
Chapter 3: Mom
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...the matter. To Homer’s relief, no one is hurt—the only “victim” is the fence itself. Elsie runs outside and yells at Homer. Before she can get far, Homer Sr. rushes outside,... (full context)
Parents and Children Theme Icon
A little later, Elsie walks inside, glaring at Homer. She calls his actions “stupid,” and tells him that he’ll... (full context)
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Elsie asks Homer if he thinks he can build a real rocket. Homer, confused, admits that... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Football Fathers
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...news that he resolves to see a lawyer in the neighboring town of Welch. Although Elsie doesn’t think this is useful, Homer Sr. insists that he’ll go. (full context)
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...without Big Creek high school. Homer Sr. is undeterred, saying that he’ll appeal the motion. Elsie finds this absurd, especially since the game has already been played. (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...history—union leaders have gone on strike repeatedly. Although John and Homer Sr. know one another, Elsie has long predicted that they’ll experience conflicts. The first such conflict begins when Homer Sr.... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...Sr. doesn’t respond, telling John to leave his house. After John leaves, Homer Sr. and Elsie talk. Homer learns that when she was a younger woman, Elsie “could have had her... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...that he has a “spot” on his lungs, probably a symptom of cancer. He tells Elsie that he won’t do anything about this. This worries Homer, since it’s traditional for workers... (full context)
Chapter 5: Quentin
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...throwing shrapnel everywhere. Homer Sr. notices this, and yells at Homer for pursuing his rockets. Elsie jumps in and, with a small smile, tells Homer to find a better place for... (full context)
Chapter 7: Cape Coalwood
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Elsie speaks with Homer privately. She explains that Homer Sr. is under pressure from his bosses... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...his friends to remove a bra with one hand—a trick that Homer finds surprisingly difficult. Elsie asks Quentin to stay for dinner, and Quentin says he’d be delighted. Elsie seems to... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Shortly after detonating soda cans for the first time, Elsie brings Homer to talk with Homer Sr. Elsie explains that Homer needs a place where... (full context)
Chapter 8: Construction of the Cape
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...using its newfound tin to build a launchpad, nozzles, and rocket shafts. As they work, Elsie pays special attention to Quentin, feeding him extra food. After an especially long day, Homer... (full context)
Chapter 9: Jake Mosby (Auks V-VIII)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
...in a boardinghouse, and is a heavy drinker, and Homer was surprised to learn from Elsie that Jake’s father is a wealthy man. Homer later sees Jake drunkenly dancing with a... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...on vacation. Homer remembers past vacations he’s taken with his family—on one, Homer Sr. and Elsie were affectionate, and even slept in the same bed. When the time came for them... (full context)
Chapter 10: Miss Riley (Auks IX-XI)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...student, joins the club. Billy is the son of an unemployed former miner, and when Elsie sees him, she provides him with Homer’s old clothing. (full context)
Chapter 11: Rocket Candy: Auks XII-XIII
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Elsie asks the boys if they need help—when she sees that they’re melting rocket fuel, she... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...him before. Homer Sr. reminds Homer not to mention the trip to the mine to Elsie, and Homer nods. (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...the surface. There, Homer is surprised to find his mother, wearing her church clothes. When Elsie sees Homer covered in coal dust, she bursts into tears. Homer Sr. tries to comfort... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Machinists: Auks XIV-XV
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Elsie has just discovered Homer exploring the mine with his father. Back at their house, she... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...Jim is still depressed about not being able to play football, and Homer Sr. and Elsie are constantly fighting. Homer decides to devote himself to rocket science again. Nevertheless, he can’t... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
It is Christmas, 1958. Elsie gives Homer a present: an autographed photograph of his hero, Dr. von Braun. In his... (full context)
Chapter 13: The Rocket Book
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...tell Homer Sr. that she helped him, but adding that Homer should do so when Elsie isn’t around. Homer can’t imagine what this means. (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...bachelors and married men. He tells Homer to never see Geneva again, and never tell Elsie that he met her. (full context)
Chapter 14: The Pillar Explosion: Auks XVI-XIX
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...the mine to assist with his rescue team, risking his own life in the process. Elsie scolds Homer Sr. for doing so, reminding him that it’s his job to oversee the... (full context)
Chapter 17: Valentine
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...in houses, and a group of people walking toward the mine. At home, he finds Elsie, waiting for him. She tells him that he’s not to go to the mine that... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Bump
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...longer ventilated. Workers are trapped without a source of oxygen, and could die soon. As Elsie explains all of this to Homer, Homer Sr. rushes through the kitchen, about to head... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...has disobeyed her. Homer tries to argue that he was worried about his father, but Elsie insists that Homer only worries about himself. As they argue, the miners hoist a few... (full context)
Chapter 20: O’Dell’s Treasure
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...eye hasn’t healed properly since the mining accident—he can’t see clearly, and probably never will. Elsie is angry with him for risking his life to save the miners, but she’s polite... (full context)
Chapter 21: Zincoshine: Auks XXII, A, B, C, and D
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...zinc fuel isn’t stable enough to be useful. Worse, when Homer returns to his house, Elsie tells him that the mining company is selling houses in Coalwood. (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...with no interest rate—a generous move, but still a major strain on the workers’ finances. Elsie insists that the coalmine itself will be shut down soon. Homer Sr. angrily denies this,... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...is sick for hours afterwards. When he goes home, carrying a big container of alcohol, Elsie scolds him for drinking. Nevertheless, he hears her laughing with Homer Sr. as he goes... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
The BCMA next tries to measure thrust using Elsie’s bathroom scale. They manage to attach the rocket to the spring in the scale, and... (full context)
Chapter 23: Science Fairs
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...that he’ll be able to repair the bullet hole—which was made by a .22 bullet—and Elsie agrees. Homer Sr. suggests that the assassin was either Pooky or another disgruntled miner. (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
As Homer Sr. calmly discusses his would-be killer, Elsie interjects: she’s going to buy a house in Myrtle Beach. Homer Sr., confused, asks Elsie... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
A few days later, Elsie drives Homer to the McDowell County Science Fair in Welch. Roy Lee drives the other... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...proud of Homer. Homer doesn’t tells his father personally, since he’s in the mines, but Elsie promises to let him know when he returns in the morning. In the following weeks,... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Shortly after Homer’s victory at the science fair, Elsie and Homer Sr. leave for Myrtle Beach, since it’s the usual time of year for... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...out with Melba. A few days later, his mother and father return from Myrtle Beach. Elsie, delighted, tells Homer that Homer Sr. has agreed to retire from mining and go into... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...in Bluefield. One day, while he’s in his room, he hears a screech of tires. Elsie and Homer Sr. yell downstairs, and Homer comes running down to them. He is shocked... (full context)
Chapter 24: A Suit for Indianapolis
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...his orange suit with a more modest blue one. Back in Coalwood, Homer Sr. and Elsie compliment Homer on his appearance in the new suit. Homer mentions that he asked Kennedy... (full context)
Chapter 25: The National Science Fair
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Shortly before the science fair begins, Homer overhears Elsie ask Homer Sr. if he’s told the company he’s quitting yet. Homer Sr. replies that... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
...show up to see Homer off: Basil, Mr. Turner, Melba June, Mr. Dubonnet, Homer Sr., Elsie, Mr. Caton, Mr. Ferro, and the entire BCMA. Just before Homer gets on the bus,... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
With no other option, Homer calls his home. He explains to Elsie that he needs extra rocket parts, immediately. Elsie explains to Homer that this will be... (full context)
Chapter 26: All Systems Go: Auks XXVI-XXXI (June 4, 1960)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...his mother, the entire town of Coalwood had been alerted to Homer’s problem. Accompanied by Elsie, Homer Sr. argued “nose-to-nose” with Mr. Dubonnet. In the midst of the argument, Mr. Caton... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...at the mine for the foreseeable future—he can’t retire to Myrtle Beach. He admitted to Elsie that he wasn’t good enough for her, and Elsie was so touched by this that... (full context)
Epilogue
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...work as a consultant for the mining company for another five years. Finally, he joined Elsie at the house in Myrtle Beach. (full context)
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
In 1989, Homer received news from Elsie that the mines at Coalwood were finally shutting down. When Homer talked with his father... (full context)