Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin

Tillie Henderson Character Analysis

A prostitute living in the same building as Corrigan (whom she has a crush on) in the Bronx. Originally from Cleveland, she is a career prostitute, having begun when she was fifteen. She is remarkably intelligent and does not tolerate disrespect. She takes the blame for a robbery she committed with her daughter, Jazzlyn, and is subsequently sentenced to eight months in prison, which later turns into eighteen months. Distraught over her daughter’s death, she resolves to kill herself in prison.

Tillie Henderson Quotes in Let the Great World Spin

The Let the Great World Spin quotes below are all either spoken by Tillie Henderson or refer to Tillie Henderson. 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:
Political Unrest Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Let the Great World Spin published in 2009.
Book Two, Chapter 7: This is the House That Horse Built Quotes

So I got clean. I got myself housing. I gave up the game. Those were good years. All it took to make me happy was finding a nickel in the bottom of my handbag. Things were going so good. It felt like I was standing at a window. I put Jazzlyn in school. I got a job putting stickers on supermarket cans. I came home, went to work, came home again. I stayed away from the stroll. Nothing was going to put me back there. And then one day, out of the blue, I don’t even remember why, I walked down to the Deegan, stuck out my thumb, and looked for a trick.

Related Characters: Tillie Henderson (speaker), Jazzlyn Henderson
Page Number: 216-7
Explanation and Analysis:
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Oh, but what I shoulda done—I shoulda swallowed a pair of handcuffs when Jazzlyn was in my belly. That’s what I shoulda done. Gave her a heads-up about what was coming her way. Say, Here you is, already arrested, you’re your mother and her mother before her, a long line of mothers stretching way back to Eve, french and nigger and dutch and whatever else came before me.

Oh, God, I shoulda swallowed handcuffs. I shoulda swallowed them whole.

Related Characters: Tillie Henderson (speaker), Jazzlyn Henderson
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
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He said to me once that most of the time people use the word love as just another way to show off they’re hungry. The way he said it went something like: Glorify their appetites.

Related Characters: Tillie Henderson (speaker), Ciaran Corrigan
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:
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Book Three, Chapter 9: A Part of the Parts Quotes

Soderberg glanced at Tillie Henderson as she was escorted out the door to his right. She walked with her head low and yet there was a learned bounce in her gait. As if she were already out and doing the track… Her face looked odd and vulnerable, and yet still held a touch of the sensual. Her eyes were dark. Her eyebrows were plucked thin. There was a shine to her, a glisten. It was as if he were seeing her for the first time: upside down, the way the eye first sees, and then must correct. Something tender and carved about the face… Her face seemed for a second almost beautiful, and then the hooker turned and shuffled and the door was closed behind her, and she vanished into her own namelessness.

Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:
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Tillie Henderson Character Timeline in Let the Great World Spin

The timeline below shows where the character Tillie Henderson appears in Let the Great World Spin. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book One, Chapter 1: All Respects to Heaven, I Like it Here
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...Corrigan is praying. One of them is the woman with the parasol, whose name is Tillie. Another clearly younger woman is named Jazzlyn. The third is named Angie. They flirt and... (full context)
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...it unlocked, the two brothers have a tense conversation in which Ciaran finds out that Tillie is Jazzlyn’s mother. This appalls him, and he finally breaks down and yells at his... (full context)
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Continuing his story, Corrigan tells Ciaran that Tillie, Jazzlyn, and Angie threw a “not-dead” party for him, which he decided to take “as... (full context)
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...a job as a bartender in Queens. One night on his way home he sees Tillie underneath the expressway in the Bronx. She comes over to him, putting her arm through... (full context)
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...patients from the nursing home while he goes downtown to the precinct where Jazzlyn and Tillie are being held because of an outstanding warrant for a robbery they committed together. Corrigan... (full context)
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Tillie takes the blame for the robbery, and Jazzlyn is released. Corrigan is there to take... (full context)
Book One, Chapter 3: A Fear of Love
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...she stands next to Ciaran while the preacher speaks. Looking through the crowd, she identifies Tillie as Jazzlyn’s mother; she is handcuffed and weeping. Lara also notices a mean-looking man standing... (full context)
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At one point during the funeral, Tillie gets up to speak. She tells a story about how when Jazzlyn was ten she... (full context)
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Tillie approaches Ciaran and asks him if he remembers what they did together. Then the other... (full context)
Book Two, Chapter 7: This is the House That Horse Built
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From prison, Tillie Henderson narrates that she wasn’t allowed to go to Corrigan’s funeral. She gives a survey... (full context)
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Tillie gives a review of her history as a prostitute, saying, “Hooking was born in me.”... (full context)
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When Tillie gave birth to Jazzlyn, she left her with her mother so that she could go... (full context)
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Tillie remembers her first days in New York, when Jazzlyn was still living with her mother... (full context)
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In prison Tillie has a cell mate who keeps a mouse in a shoebox as a pet. This... (full context)
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Tillie quickly rose in the ranks under TuKwik. But being his favorite prostitute came with consequences:... (full context)
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Tillie remembers one client in particular that stands out amidst all the others. He rented a... (full context)
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Despite her great desire to see Jazzlyn’s children—her grandchildren—Tillie begins considering hanging herself in prison. “Any excuse is a good excuse,” she says. She... (full context)
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Usually Tillie and Jazzlyn didn’t rob their clients, she explains, but one time a man took them... (full context)
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Tillie plans her suicide, deciding that the pipes in the prison shower stalls will be strong... (full context)
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Tillie goes on narrating the history of her New York life. She explains that in the... (full context)
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After this injury, Tillie decided to clean up her life. She stopped working as a prostitute, put Jazzlyn in... (full context)
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...heroin and hanging out with a gang called the Immortals. Unsure of what to do, Tillie tried to keep her safe by staying with her on the streets. At least, that... (full context)
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In prison, Tillie gets a visitor. She excitedly fixes her hair and puts on lipstick, readying herself to... (full context)
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Tillie remembers Corrigan fondly. She explains that the first time she and the other prostitutes saw... (full context)
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In prison the boss matron develops a crush on Tillie. She invites her into her office and tells her to open her jumpsuit. Tillie does... (full context)
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Tillie waits and waits for her grandchildren to arrive. In the meantime, another inmate attacks her... (full context)
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Tillie offers to take her clothes off for the matron if only she can stay. The... (full context)
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On her way out of court, Tillie tries to scratch the guards’ eyes out. She is restrained, put in the hospital wing,... (full context)
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Finally, Tillie’s granddaughters are brought to visit her. She runs over to where they sit behind the... (full context)
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Tillie goes to a church service and talks to the chaplain about Rumi. He tells her... (full context)
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Tillie thinks about the last time she saw Jazzlyn and Corrigan in the Bronx. She thinks... (full context)
Book Three, Chapter 9: A Part of the Parts
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The first defendants on Judge Soderberg’s list are Jazzlyn and Tillie Henderson. He observes the two prostitutes as they come to the front of the room,... (full context)
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...tightrope walker’s case—are taking note of his prowess as a judge. As he proceeds, however, Tillie and he get into several light arguments, resulting in him asking her to refrain from... (full context)
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Because Tillie has decided to take full responsibility for the robbery that she and Jazzlyn committed, Judge... (full context)
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As the hearing continues, Judge Soderberg turns his attention to Tillie, the remaining defendant. She mouths off to him, calling him “babe,” and this makes him... (full context)
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Tillie is upset and surprised by the fact that she is sentenced to eight months in... (full context)
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...court officer over to him and whispers about getting the tightrope walker up next. As Tillie is being led out of the room, Soderberg watches her and feels as if he... (full context)
Book Three, Chapter 10: Centavos
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...the moment of beauty was something simpler than that, like a conversation he’d had with Tillie or Jazzlyn. Maybe, she thinks, he had decided that he didn’t need her, that he... (full context)
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...that Corrigan spent the night in his van near the courthouse in Lower Manhattan that Tillie and Jazzlyn had been sent to. She thinks it is possible that he awoke in... (full context)