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Mom has a deeply philosophical nature, analyzing the meaning behind the actions she takes. However, as her selfishness becomes evident throughout Jeannette’s childhood, we realize that she uses philosophy primarily as a tool to absolve herself from both blame and responsibility. This paradigm is most evident in her constant insistence on compassion. At first, Mom’s belief that the children must show compassion to people who actively hurt them, like Billy Deel or Erma, seems kind but dangerous. However, when Jeannette realizes that Mom simply doesn’t want to upset Erma and have to search for a new home, we realize that Mom’s call for compassion helps her avoid confrontation and conflict. In this way, she uses her beliefs as a justification for choosing her own comfort and safety over her children’s. Mom is a victim of Dad’s physical and emotional abuse, a fact that she also attempts to hide with philosophy. Mom explains her choice to stay with Dad as being an “excitement addict,” intentionally using the word addiction to evoke Dad’s alcoholism. As the family has given up trying to get Dad sober, Mom’s phrasing here implies that she can do nothing to change or leave her relationship with Dad.
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