Little Fires Everywhere

by

Celeste Ng

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Joseph and Madeleine Ryan Character Analysis

During Mia’s time as an art student in New York City, Joseph Ryan, a wealthy Manhattan lawyer, spotted a young Mia on the subway and was struck by her resemblance to his wife. He and his wife Madeleine offered Mia ten thousand dollars to serve as a surrogate for them—they’d been unable to conceive a child for many years. Mia, desperate for money to pay her art school tuition, accepted their offer, became pregnant, and was soon moved into a private studio apartment and lavished with gifts and attention. After her brother’s death, Mia wrote the Ryans a note telling them she’d lost the baby, left nine hundred dollars to pay them back for all of her medical appointments, and ran away in the night to San Francisco, where she soon thereafter gave birth to Pearl.
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Joseph and Madeleine Ryan Character Timeline in Little Fires Everywhere

The timeline below shows where the character Joseph and Madeleine Ryan appears in Little Fires Everywhere. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...she came home for Warren’s funeral pregnant, carrying a baby for a couple called the Ryans. (full context)
Chapter 13
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
...her. He begs to talk to her and apologizes for frightening her. His name is Joseph Ryan , he is a trader on Wall Street, and he and his wife have been... (full context)
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
Mia meets the Ryans at the Four Seasons, not realizing that the evening will “change everything forever.” She is... (full context)
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...she quickly does the math in her head, she realizes only the job as the Ryans’ surrogate will allow her to afford to stay in school. Conflicted, Mia leaves Pauline and... (full context)
Chapter 14
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
...roommates, or Pauline and Mal, “she had already made up her mind” to help the Ryans. Mia asks her boss at the diner for a raise, but is shot down. She... (full context)
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
...of absence from school. In the last few weeks of classes, Mia goes to the Ryans’ apartment and allows Madeline to inject Joseph’s sperm into her with a turkey baster. For... (full context)
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...what is going on. Her roommates tell her that she’s gotten a “sweet gig.” The Ryans move Mia into a small studio apartment closer to their own, and Mia quits her... (full context)
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...she is a surrogate—but this news upsets the Wrights even more. Mia reveals that the Ryans are paying her, and her parents berate her for “sell[ing her] own child.” (full context)
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...her studio, Mia takes a nap, packs her belongings, and writes a note to the Ryans. She lies to them about having lost the baby, and repays them nine hundred dollars... (full context)
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...the hospital, Mia struggles with her new role, is regretful of having lied to the Ryans, and even considers calling them to confess—but with the help of her landlady, she is... (full context)
Chapter 15
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...they give Mrs. Richardson the business card of a lawyer working on behalf of the Ryans. The lawyer had contacted them years earlier in order to hopefully get in touch with... (full context)
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...very old, Mrs. Richardson calls it. The receptionist who answers the phone verifies that the Ryans still have a lawyer at the firm on retainer, and offers to put Mrs. Richardson... (full context)
Chapter 18
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...were Mia’s daughter”, enrages her. Mrs. Richardson bitingly reveals that she knows all about the Ryans, Warren, and Mia’s complicated past, and accuses Mia of having raised Pearl without order or... (full context)
Chapter 19
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
...to ruin Pearl’s admiration of someone she “adored.” Mia concedes that Mrs. Richardson is right—the Ryans would have given Pearl a “wonderful” life. Mia offers to bring Pearl to New York... (full context)