Lab Girl


Hope Jahren

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Jahren’s Mother Character Analysis

Jahren dedicates Lab Girl to her mother, yet notes in the memoir that the two women had a strained relationship. Jahren’s mother was also intelligent and interested in science at a young age, and she won an Honorable Mention for a national science prize, but that was not enough to get her a scholarship to the University of Minnesota. Determined to attend anyway, the elder Mrs. Jahren worked long hours to afford college, but ended up dropping out and returning to her hometown, getting married, and raising three children. She spent time with Jahren, tending her garden, and studying for a correspondence degree in English Literature—Jahren recognizes that she inherited her mother’s tenacity, as well as a love of reading and writing. When Jahren goes off to college, she feels that she is fulfilling her mother’s frustrated ambitions, and whenever she encounters bumps along the road to success in her career, Jahren expresses fears that she will end up like her mother, a failed academic, raising for children at home.

Jahren’s Mother Quotes in Lab Girl

The Lab Girl quotes below are all either spoken by Jahren’s Mother or refer to Jahren’s 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:
Life Cycles Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Knopf edition of Lab Girl published in 2016.
Part 1: Roots and Leaves Quotes

As much as I desperately wanted to be like my father, I knew that I was meant to be an extension of my indestructible mother: a do-over to make real the life that she deserved and should have had. I left high school a year early to take a scholarship at the University of Minnesota—the same school that my mother, father, and all of my brothers had attended.

Related Symbols: Minnesota
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jahren’s Mother Character Timeline in Lab Girl

The timeline below shows where the character Jahren’s Mother appears in Lab Girl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Roots and Leaves
Women and Science Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Every night when Jahren and her father get home, Jahren’s mother is always in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher loudly, signaling a lifelong anger that puzzles... (full context)
Women and Science Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Science vs. Literature Theme Icon
The elder Mrs. Jahren never gave up her dreams of a college degree, however, and once the children were... (full context)