An American Childhood

Annie’s mother is, like most other upper-class women she knew in Pittsburgh, a wife and mother without paid employment of her own. Although adhering to many of the social expectations of the family’s milieu, Mother is also far from a stereotypical meek housewife. She adores games, comedy, and practical jokes. She can be excitable and exuberant, and she marshals some of her considerable energy into being creative about the household tasks she’s in charge of. She differs from her husband in her more left-of-center politics and her obvious sympathy for the poor. Dillard describes her mother as both inextricable from the context of wealthy Pittsburgh women (she does care a great deal about what people in her world think), but also unique in her strange but alluring personality.

Mother Quotes in An American Childhood

The An American Childhood quotes below are all either spoken by Mother or refer to Mother. 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 Interior Life  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper & Row edition of An American Childhood published in 1989.
Part Two Quotes

I had essentially been handed my own life. In subsequent years my parents would praise my drawings and poems, and supply me with books, art supplies, and sports equipment, and listen to my troubles and enthusiasms, and supervise my hours, and discuss and inform, but they would not get involved with my detective work, nor hear about my reading, nor inquire about my homework or term papers or exams, nor visit the salamanders I caught, nor listen to me play the piano, nor attend my field hockey games, nor fuss over my insect collection with me, or my poetry collection or stamp collection or rock collection. My days and nights were my own to plan and fill.

Related Characters: Annie Dillard (Annie Doak) (speaker), Mother, Father (Frank Doak)
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other An American Childhood quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Part Three Quotes

I was growing and thinning, as if pulled. I was getting angry, as if pushed. I morally disapproved most things in North America, and blamed my innocent parents for them. My feelings deepened and lingered. The swift moods of early childhood—each formed by and suited to its occasion—vanished. Now feelings lasted so long they left stains. They arose from nowhere, like winds or waves, and battered at me or engulfed me.

Related Characters: Annie Dillard (Annie Doak) (speaker), Mother, Father (Frank Doak)
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui offic

Get the entire An American Childhood LitChart as a printable PDF.
An american childhood.pdf.medium

Mother Character Timeline in An American Childhood

The timeline below shows where the character Mother appears in An American Childhood. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...listening to jazz and snapping his figures. A week later he cheerfully said goodbye to Mother (who was in favor of the plan), his 10-year-old, 7-year-old, and 6-month-old daughters, and started... (full context)
Part One
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
Place and Environment  Theme Icon
...to settle down: Annie was born on the day Hitler died in April 1945. Her mother, like other women, stayed alone at home all day. For now, so did Annie. (full context)
The Interior Life  Theme Icon
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Annie wandered outside, where her mother told her to lie on her back and try to see what the clouds looked... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
...knuckly hands that were loose in their skins, and yet they never seemed to notice. Mother would allow Annie sometimes to play with her fingers, lifting them one after another, making... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Sometimes, while Annie’s mother was napping, Annie would touch her mother’s smooth, fair face to see how flexible it... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...fluorescent lamp illuminating their fish tank. They ate silently, protected from the dangerous cold. Then Mother looked outside, and Annie followed her gaze to see Jo Ann turning on ice skates,... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...the nuns were the teachers; they seemed like prisoners, with faces that had rotted away. Mother marched Annie outside and asked one of the nuns if she could say hello to... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
As Dillard grew, her understanding of things expanded; for instance, she began to know her mother as a person. In her twenties, Annie’s mother had a taste for modernist furniture and... (full context)
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
Mother would wake up Annie and Amy by racing into their room and opening the windows... (full context)
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...stories set in bars with zoo animals or insects. He would linger over details; her mother was short and to the point. They collaborated on reconstructing old classic American jokes. Dante,... (full context)
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...back to the first one from a few days earlier. This performance was appealing to Mother because of how risky it was—she and Annie’s father were both sensitive to the potential... (full context)
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
Place and Environment  Theme Icon
Annie sensed a rivalry between her mother and Oma. Mother had won morally, condemning Oma’s racism, but she still worried that Annie... (full context)
Part Two
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Place and Environment  Theme Icon
...when Annie and Amy were born, and once he found an arrowhead. Each time their mother remodeled the houses they lived in, the workmen found brick walls under plaster and oak... (full context)
The Interior Life  Theme Icon
...a person’s interior life expands and thickens: she wakes up one day to discover her grandmother, then to discover boys. First there were the “polite boys” of Richland Lane, with parents... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
...that if she draped it over her head, she was invisible. She grew terrified if Mother washed it, until Mother cut it in two so that she could wash one half... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...watched the sparks pool and crackle around the cable, which was flailing like a cobra: Mother told her needlessly that she’d be a goner if she touched it. During the tornado,... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
One Sunday afternoon Mother entered the kitchen where Father was listening to the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game: she heard,... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
Mother often played games with words, telling Annie to spell “poinsettia” and “sherbet,” to remind her... (full context)
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
After moving across town, Mother persuaded the post office to let her keep her old address forever, since she’d had... (full context)
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
Place and Environment  Theme Icon
Mother kept a number of unfashionable positions. She was anti-McCarthy. She asserted that people living in... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
...from pictures. Annie ran upstairs, where her parents were smoking and drinking their after-dinner coffee. Mother seemed happy Annie had found something interesting to her, but she made it clear that... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...and microbes to a biography of Louis Pasteur, who established the germ theory of disease. Mother’s own favorite story was about a modern-day mystery: premature babies were turning up blind, and... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
...meet an unsolvable problem. She didn’t know anything about parting or mourning, like her own mother whose father had died when she was seven. Still, she was familiar with longing and... (full context)
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
Place and Environment  Theme Icon
...two sides of Dallas Avenue were left to look at each other—Annie’s family’s earliest neighbors. Mother waved, but the Glen Arden families mostly climbed back up and shut their doors. (full context)
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
Place and Environment  Theme Icon
...there for many years, Annie assumed, based on what she read. One day she asked Mother, who said there wasn’t much more than two weeks’ worth of food there. (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
On Sunday morning, Mother asked Annie how the dance was and she barely remembered: the morning made it seem... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...water towers into their attic bathroom, or the Allegheny into the Ohio into the Mississippi. Mother disagreed with him, recalling the blatant poverty they’ve seen. Father said those families shouldn’t have... (full context)
Part Three
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Place and Environment  Theme Icon
...to learn everything and to be able to combine her father’s logical mind with her mother’s imagination and energy. Still, the books were pushing her away from Pittsburgh—something Mother always knew,... (full context)
Curiosity and Attention  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...to ask her about the letter: he said she seemed bent on humiliating him and Mother. Annie had a meeting with the assistant minister of the church, Dr. Blackwood, in his... (full context)
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
Place and Environment  Theme Icon
...year in Philadelphia, part of their parents’ attempt to stave off more issues like Annie’s. Mother sighed and asked what they were going to do with Annie; Annie couldn’t think what. (full context)
Epilogue
The Interior Life  Theme Icon
Family, Authority, and Institutions Theme Icon
...Ohio River one day that Annie always equated living with leaving, she thinks. She recalls Mother persuading Father to perform or “do” Goofus, an old pantomime routine about a farm boy,... (full context)