Little Fires Everywhere

by

Celeste Ng

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Mrs. Richardson / Elena Character Analysis

Mrs. Richardson is a journalist, mother, and Shaker Heights native who embodies several of the novel’s themes: motherhood, altruism, and allegiance to order. Born and raised in Shaker Heights, the prim and proper Mrs. Richardson—who, in a nod to her need for order, respect, and control, is hardly ever referred to by her first name—comes from a well-to-do family whose assets include, among other things, a small rental property which serves as a source of supplemental income. Mrs. Richardson takes the house on as her pet project, and sees that the funds from her tenants’ rent is put toward her family’s yearly vacation. With the arrival of Mia and Pearl Warren—her newest tenants—Mrs. Richardson slowly begins to feel the anxiety of her children being pulled away from her. She starts to realize that perhaps there is no one right way to be a mother, and is forced to accept that her strict adherence to the rules and regulations that have governed her life has not delivered her all the happiness, fulfillment, and ease that she thought it would. Mrs. Richardson feels intensely competitive with Mia, as her daughters, Lexie and Izzy, are pulled into Mia’s orbit, and Mrs. Richardson seeks to explore—and exploit—Mia’s shadowed past. Mrs. Richardson becomes so involved in attempting to order and organize the lives of everyone around her that she grows blind to the ways in which her children are maturing or struggling to mature, engaging with the world around them or failing to.

Mrs. Richardson / Elena Quotes in Little Fires Everywhere

The Little Fires Everywhere quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Richardson / Elena or refer to Mrs. Richardson / Elena. 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:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of Little Fires Everywhere published in 2017.
Chapter 2 Quotes

Mr. Yang was exactly the kind of tenant Mrs. Richardson wanted: a kind person to whom she could do a kind turn, and who would appreciate her kindness.

Related Characters: Mrs. Richardson / Elena (speaker), Mr. Yang
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

[Mrs. Richardson] turned her attention to the largest print, which had been stuck up alone over the mantelpiece. It was a photograph of a woman, back to the camera, in mid-dance. The film caught her in blurred motion—arms everywhere, stretched high, to her sides, curved to her waist—a tangle of limbs that, Mrs. Richardson realized with a shock, made her resemble an enormous spider, surrounded by a haze of web. It perturbed and perplexed her, but she could not turn away.

Related Characters: Mrs. Richardson / Elena (speaker), Mia Warren
Related Symbols: Mia’s Photographs
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Mia could see there was no point in protesting, that protesting, in fact, would only make things worse and lead to ill will. She had learned that when people were bent on doing something they believed was a good deed, it was usually impossible to dissuade them. Then she imagined herself safely installed in the Richardsons’ kingdom, half obscured in the background, keeping watch over her daughter. Reasserting her presence in her daughter’s life.

Related Characters: Mia Warren (speaker), Pearl Warren, Mrs. Richardson / Elena
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

She had learned, with Izzy’s birth, how your life could trundle along on its safe little track and then, with no warning, skid spectacularly off course.

Related Characters: Mrs. Richardson / Elena (speaker), Izzy Richardson
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

“I believe in knowing where your roots lie. That kind of thing shapes your identity so much.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Richardson / Elena (speaker), Pearl Warren
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

It was so easy, she thought with some disdain, to find out about people. It was all out there, everything about them. You just had to look. You could figure out anything about a person if you just tried hard enough.

Related Characters: Mrs. Richardson / Elena (speaker), Mia Warren
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

For [Mrs. Richardson] it was simple: Bebe Chow had been a poor mother; Linda McCullough had been a good one. One had followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules, [Mr. Richardson] reflected, was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time there were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure which side of the line you stood on.

Page Number: 269
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

The police would find Izzy, she told herself. They would find her and she would be able to make amends. She wasn’t sure how, but she was certain she would. And if the police couldn’t find her? Then she would look for Izzy herself. For as long as it took, for forever if need be. Years might pass and they might change, both of them, but she was sure she would still know her own child, just as she would know herself, no matter how long it had been. She was certain of this.

Related Characters: Mrs. Richardson / Elena (speaker), Izzy Richardson
Page Number: 336
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mrs. Richardson / Elena Character Timeline in Little Fires Everywhere

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Richardson / Elena appears in Little Fires Everywhere. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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As her family’s house burns, Mrs. Richardson stands on the lawn in her bathrobe. She had been asleep when the fire started,... (full context)
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...gasoline and a fire had been set in the middle of each family member’s bed. Mrs. Richardson finally ran outside, realizing that her husband had probably gone in to work early and... (full context)
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The siblings talk about how Mrs. Richardson “is going to murder” Izzy when Izzy comes back, and they assume that they’ll all... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...fifteen-year-old daughter Pearl have just moved into the Richardsons’ “little” rental property on Winslow Road. Mrs. Richardson and Mr. Richardson were aware when the two of them moved in that Mia was... (full context)
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...artist—though they both concede that the rent is not important to the Richardson family’s well-being. Mrs. Richardson ’s parents purchased the duplex as an investment property when she was young, and used... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson inherited her parents’ rental house after their deaths five years ago, and in addition to... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson has had less success with renting the upstairs apartment to the “kind” of tenant she... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...and dreamlike, and the family seems to be “arranged in a tableau for her enjoyment.” Mrs. Richardson bakes in the kitchen, Mr. Richardson is outside grilling, and the children are lounging on... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...whole days at the Richardson house, on Moody’s invitation. She is impressed by Mr. and Mrs. Richardsons ’ confidence and high-powered jobs—he is a lawyer, and she is a journalist for the... (full context)
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...is amazed by how embedded their family is in their home. The affectionate and fascinating Mrs. Richardson is of particular interest to Pearl, who likens her to a TV mom like Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Conveniently, the following Tuesday, Mrs. Richardson arrives at the rental house to check up on Mia and assure that she’s “settled... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson asks whether Mia sells enough of her art to make a living, and Mia divulges... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson notes aloud that Mia keeps a very clean and tidy house, and then, struck with... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...talks to Mia about how he got to Shaker Heights. He fell in love with Mrs. Richardson in college, and she brought him back to Shaker after graduation. Mr. Richardson tells Mia... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...a plan—that “no one really does, no matter what they say.” Izzy tells Mia that Mrs. Richardson has a plan for everything, and also states that her mother “hates her.” Mia tells... (full context)
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...and died of cancer in 1982. Izzy enlists her mother to help with her research. Mrs. Richardson, touched by Izzy’s faith in her journalistic capabilities and frustrated with her frequent puff-piece assignments,... (full context)
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...gallery that supplied it for the exhibit—the photo had sold originally for fifty thousand dollars— Mrs. Richardson contacts Anita Rees, an art dealer in New York responsible for the sale. Anita Rees... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Mrs. Richardson remains annoyed with Izzy for the rest of the week—though she admits “she [is] usually... (full context)
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...party thrown by their friends, the McCulloughs. Moody and Izzy want to invite Pearl, but Mrs. Richardson refuses, telling them that “Pearl is not part of the family.” The Richardsons take two... (full context)
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...to give Mirabelle a new name to “celebrate the start of her new life,” and Mrs. Richardson chastises Izzy for misbehaving. (full context)
Chapter 10
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...indeed flooded with calls, and a follow-up was ordered. The next evening, Mrs. McCullough and Mrs. Richardson watch the news together and commiserate. Mrs. McCullough’s lawyer has told her that she is... (full context)
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...she suggests to her father that the McCulloughs “bargain” with Bebe and “pay her off.” Mrs. Richardson plans to confiscate Izzy’s beloved Doc Martens. (full context)
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The next morning, while reading an article in the newspaper about the McCullough case, Mrs. Richardson comes across a tidbit which describes how Bebe was informed of her daughter’s whereabouts by... (full context)
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The following morning, Mia arrives for work at the Richardsons’ house. Mrs. Richardson, who believes that Mia is “dangerous” because she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her,... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Mrs. Richardson reads up on Pauline Hawthorne—she’s heard of her before, but doesn’t know much about her.... (full context)
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Lexie is admitted to Yale and, to celebrate, Mrs. Richardson offers to take Lexie, Izzy, and Pearl out for a fancy girls’ lunch. Pearl is... (full context)
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...at a crowded and glamorous buffet-style restaurant where the Richardsons go “for very special occasions,” Mrs. Richardson carefully steers the conversation to Pearl’s heritage. She asks where Pearl was born and where... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson, working off of the information obtained from Pearl, contacts the San Francisco Office of Vital... (full context)
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The Richardsons continue to bicker back and forth about the case. Mrs. Richardson and Lexie side with the McCulloughs, as does Mr. Richardson, while Moody and Izzy, inspired... (full context)
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...not wanting to “sit and smile while they steal [her] baby.” Mrs. McCullough confides in Mrs. Richardson that she hates giving “her” baby over to the social worker, and has begun to... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson ’s anger at Mia over Mrs. McCullough’s pain continues to burn. She reflects upon her... (full context)
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In her own youth, in the late sixties, Mrs. Richardson did not join the protests in Washington—“where would she sleep,” she remembers thinking. Though a... (full context)
Chapter 12
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At dinner, Mrs. Richardson tells her family that she’ll be traveling to Pittsburgh for research on an article she’s... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Mrs. Richardson has arrived at the Wrights’ home in Pittsburgh after driving excitedly nonstop for three hours.... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Though the Wrights only know the basics of Mia’s story, they give Mrs. Richardson the business card of a lawyer working on behalf of the Ryans. The lawyer had... (full context)
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Though the number of the law firm the Wrights referred her to is very old, Mrs. Richardson calls it. The receptionist who answers the phone verifies that the Ryans still have a... (full context)
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...worried about missing school. Mia tells her that she already called in, pretending to be Mrs. Richardson, and excused Lexie from class for the following day as well. Lexie asks Mia if... (full context)
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...things that they “regret.” Lexie, embarrassed, gathers her things. Mia asks her if she’ll tell Mrs. Richardson about the abortion. Lexie tells her that she might, one day. She tosses her discharge... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...Mr. Richardson continues to question the morality of the case out loud to his wife. Mrs. Richardson tells him that “there are resources out there” for the McCulloughs to learn more about... (full context)
Chapter 17
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The judge is still unable to make a decision, and Mrs. Richardson, visiting Mrs. McCullough at her home, asks if there is “anything else” she can think... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson, telling herself that she wants to help Mrs. McCullough win the case, begins “searching for... (full context)
Chapter 18
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When Mrs. Richardson arrives to take Elizabeth to lunch, Elizabeth, put off by Mrs. Richardson’s bragging about her... (full context)
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Once she’s back in her office after her lunch with Elizabeth, Mrs. Richardson receives a call from Mr. Richardson. He informs her that the judge has made a... (full context)
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...[her child]” and that the court’s decision to place “Mirabelle” with the McCulloughs “speaks volumes.” Mrs. Richardson arrives home later that evening, and right away heads upstairs to confront Moody. When she... (full context)
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The next morning, Mrs. Richardson heads to work early “to avoid facing any of her children.” She wonders over and... (full context)
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Mia responds to Mrs. Richardson ’s cruel tirade by accusing Mrs. Richardson of being not just “bother[ed]” by the fact... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...asks why Mia has decided to tell her now. Mia does her best to explain Mrs. Richardson ’s fury and her threats, sad to ruin Pearl’s admiration of someone she “adored.” Mia... (full context)
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...to warn Pearl of what Moody has said about her, and of the fact that Mrs. Richardson knows about her and Trip. Izzy can tell something is wrong with Mia, but isn’t... (full context)
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...her mother to tell her that Mia has not shown up to prepare dinner, and Mrs. Richardson tells her that Mia can’t make it tonight. When Moody arrives back home, she asks... (full context)
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...tells her that Pearl deserved it for “sneaking around with Trip.” Izzy tells Moody that Mrs. Richardson will blame Mia for everything. Moody says that Mia should have raised Pearl to be... (full context)
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...goes to Serena’s house, where she confronts Lexie about her abortion. Izzy tells Lexie that Mrs. Richardson thinks Pearl had the abortion. Lexie thinks this is “funny,” and tells Izzy that Pearl... (full context)
Chapter 20
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The fire trucks have left, and “the shell of the Richardson house [is] steaming gently.” Mrs. Richardson pulls her bathrobe tight and looks around. Mr. Richardson is in conversation with the chief... (full context)
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...the Richardsons park their many cars in the driveway leading up to the rental house, Mrs. Richardson is seized by the fear that perhaps Mia and Pearl haven’t left after all, or,... (full context)
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Lexie calls for her mother, and Mrs. Richardson joins her in the kitchen to find a large and thick manila envelope that Mrs.... (full context)
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...shirt accessories which define and support a dress shirt collar’s points, blurred by long exposure. Mrs. Richardson ’s is “a paper cutout of a birdcage, shattered, as if something very powerful inside... (full context)
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Mrs. Richardson tries to settle down for sleep, but is distracted by the duplex’s noises and the... (full context)