The Mothers


Brit Bennett

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Themes and Colors
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Mothers, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling

Privacy is a tenuous concept in The Mothers, as much of Nadia’s personal life is subject to public scrutiny and gossip. Most prominently, her abortion attracts scandalized whispers from the Mothers—a group of elderly women in Nadia’s church—who hear the story years after the fact but still can’t keep themselves from spreading it through the congregation. However, they soon regret their decision to repeat such sensitive information, since it involves their pastor

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Caretaking and Responsibility

Caretaking in The Mothers is a duty or responsibility women are expected to uphold. Nadia grapples with this expectation throughout the novel. First, she has to face the congregation’s opinion that her mother has shirked her motherly duties by killing herself—nobody, it seems, is willing to consider the fact that Elise has acted according to a sense of free will by ending her own suffering. Instead, the community focuses exclusively on her failure to fulfill…

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Internalization vs. Externalization

Throughout The Mothers, Nadia internalizes her grief and emotional pain rather than externalizing them. She keeps herself from outwardly mourning her mother’s death, instead dealing with the trauma as an “inside hurt,” even as she admires Luke for his ability to wear his pain externally. Not long after her mother commits suicide, Nadia gets pregnant and has an abortion, an event that perfectly illustrates her struggle to externalize her internal hardships. In this…

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Religion and Judgment

Throughout The Mothers, religion isolates Nadia Turner. This begins when her mother commits suicide, since Nadia subsequently discovers that Upper Room’s congregation—with its unyielding religious and moral values—is incapable of helping her deal with her grief. In fact, the church’s reaction to Elise Turner’s suicide not only fails to comfort Nadia, but actively turns her away from Upper Room altogether. As such, Nadia is isolated by her community’s strict religious ideals, which…

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The majority of the characters in The Mothers hold tightly to their identities. For example, Aubrey, who wears a purity ring, spends her summers working at the church, and never misses Sunday services, remains rooted to her identity as a pious and pure young woman. Meanwhile, Nadia, who breaks the cast of a high-caliber student by skipping school to party and hook up with boys, doesn’t attach herself to a particular persona. Nadia…

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