Tyler’s mother’s sewing scissors symbolize her fraught relationship with her daughters, Tyler and Ellie. Throughout the story, she spends much of the story working on a set of handmade dolls she hopes to sell in local stores. This business project sometimes verges on an obsession: her sewing materials take up the whole kitchen table, forcing Tyler and Ellie to do their homework elsewhere, and Tyler’s mother even keeps Tyler home from school one day so that her daughter can help her with the work, despite Tyler’s reluctance to miss school. Among these sewing materials are a pair of special sewing scissors which Tyler’s mother was only able to afford by borrowing money from Ellie, who has a part-time job at Subway. The girls’ mother is fiercely protective of the scissors, repeatedly warning Tyler not to touch them or use them for school projects.
In this way, the scissors symbolize the way that Tyler’s mother’s emotional life overshadows that of her two daughters, whose own needs and wants are constantly subordinated to those of their caregiver. However, when Shane attacks Tyler and Ellie at the end of the story, Tyler’s mother pulls the scissors out of her apron and uses them to stab him in the stomach, risking her own safety in order to defend her girls. Ellie embraces her shortly afterwards, resolving (at least temporarily) the tension that’s existed between her and her mother for much of the story. Because of the scissors’ significance as a symbol of her exploitation of her daughters, the mother’s willingness to sacrifice them for her daughters’ safety demonstrates a major shift in her character: she ultimately overlooks her own self-interest in order to take care of her children.