“I may as well surrender my kids to the devil himself, as send them down the road to that school.”

This comment from Gene states from the outset everything he stands for. He clearly possesses an unshakable belief in his own logic, a disinterest in school or education, and a fire-and-brimstone view of religion. His views are troublingly narrow-minded and convey early on that Gene’s best interest isn’t always in the well-being of his children.

“College is extra school for kids too dumb to learn the first time around.”

This is yet another aphorism of Gene’s, indicative of the environment in which he has raised his children and the beliefs he has fought to instill within them. Public school is for the secular, and college is for failures. It is this consistent condemnation of education that steers many of the Westover kids from pursuing any sort of formal schooling, and which Tara, Tyler, and Richard are forced to rise above.

“Our ancestors risked their lives to cross the ocean, to escape those socialist countries. And what do you do? You turn around and go back?” Again, I said nothing. “I’m looking forward to  your graduation,” he said. “The Lord has a few choice rebukes for me to give them professors.”

One of Tara’s great challenges throughout is reckoning, time and time again, with the notion of how stuck in place her family is, and Gene especially. Throughout her upbringing, Gene has shown occasional support in surprising ways, such as encouraging her singing, or coming to her graduation. However, as hopeful as such glimpses may be for Tara, suggesting there could be meaningful change in the long-run, a quote like this proves that, while Gene will support her in theory, it’s clear his support can only go so far and that his own agenda supersedes all.

“That’s wifely work,” Dad said. “I’ve never heard of a man writing cards.” He had said the exact wrong thing. For ten years, Mother had been the primary breadwinner, while continuing to cook meals, clean the house, do the laundry, and I had never once heard her express anything like resentment. Until now.
“Then you should do the husband’s work,” she said, her voice raised.

After Gene’s mother’s funeral, Faye finds herself starting an argument with Gene. She tells him to write the thank-you notes, which he rebukes immediately. For Tara, who has watched her mother be the sole breadwinner for over a decade, this quote encapsulates the subservient role her mother is expected to occupy as well as the hypocrisy that underlies it. For once, Faye stands up to Gene, and it’s moments like these that make Tara think her mother might be an ally.