Half Broke Horses

by

Jeannette Walls

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Mother Albertina Character Analysis

The Mother Superior of Lily’s Catholic School in Santa Fe, which Lily begins attending at age thirteen. Mother Albertina explains the origin story of the “Miraculous Staircase” in the school’s chapel, and Lily takes an immediate liking to her because she treats all students the same regardless of their ethnic or economic background. Lily thinks that she would have made a “fine horsewoman.” When Lily is forced to drop out of school, Mother Albertina tells her that when God shuts a window he opens a door—a phrase that sticks with Lily for the rest of her life. She also encourages Lily to think about becoming a teacher, and later to take the test that will allow her to do so.

Mother Albertina Quotes in Half Broke Horses

The Half Broke Horses quotes below are all either spoken by Mother Albertina or refer to Mother Albertina. 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:
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Half Broke Horses published in 2010.
Chapter 2  Quotes

Mom and Dad always talked as if it was a matter of course that Helen and I would marry and Buster would inherit the property, though I had to admit I'd never actually met a boy I liked, not to mention felt like marrying. On the other hand, women who didn't marry became old maids, spinsters who slept in the attic, sat in a corner peeling potatoes all day, and were a burden on their families, like our neighbor Old Man Pucket’s sister, Louella.

Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3  Quotes

I'd been on the road, out in the sun and sleeping in the open, for twenty-eight days. I was tired and caked with dirt. I'd lost weight, my clothes were heavy with grime and hung loosely, and when I looked in a mirror, my face seemed harder. My skin had darkened, and I had the beginnings of squint lines around my eyes. But I had made it, made it through that darned door.

Related Characters: Lily Casey Smith (speaker), Mother Albertina, Patches
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

She was convinced that Mom in particular would never forgive her for bringing shame on the family. Mom and Dad would disown her, she believed, the same way our servant girl Lupe's parents had kicked her out when she got pregnant. No man would ever want her again, Helen said, she had no place to go. She wasn't as strong as me, she said, and couldn't make it on her own.

"Don't you ever feel like giving up?" Helen asked. "I just feel like giving up."

"That's nonsense," I said. "You're much stronger than you think. There's always a way out." I talked again about the cottonwood tree. I also told her about the time I was sent home from the Sisters of Loretto because Dad wouldn't pay my tuition, and how Mother Albertina had told me that when God closes a window, he opens a door, and it was up to us to find it.

Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mother Albertina Character Timeline in Half Broke Horses

The timeline below shows where the character Mother Albertina appears in Half Broke Horses. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
...the beauty of Santa Fe and takes an immediate liking to the strict but fair Mother Albertina , the Mother Superior of her new school. Mother Albertina explains that the staircase to... (full context)
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Poverty and the American Dream Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
One day Mother Albertina calls Lily into her study and tells her that while many girls are at the... (full context)
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Poverty and the American Dream Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
Mother Albertina sees a tearful Lily to the train station and assures her that when God closes... (full context)
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Poverty and the American Dream Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
Lily receives a letter from Mother Albertina . With World War I starting there is a shortage of teachers, and Lily would... (full context)
Chapter 4
Women’s Strength in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Fate vs. Self-Reliance  Theme Icon
...her about all the setbacks in her own life and how she overcame them, echoing Mother Albertina ’s words that “when God closes a window he opens a door.” (full context)