Annie Potter, Lucy’s mother, constitutes a major force in the novel, despite her physical absence. Often referred to as godlike, she provides the motivation for much of Lucy’s behavior, for Lucy has made escaping her mother’s influence the supreme goal of her life. But as Lucy herself admits, she and her mother have much in common, so much so that as a child, Lucy thought of her mother as an extension of herself. Like Lucy, Annie possesses a sharp tongue and a strong mind, and she vacillates between nurture and withdrawal. Unlike Lucy, however, Annie has spent her life playing the part of the proper woman, attempting to instill in Lucy values of prudence and submission that Lucy believes go against both their natures. Whereas Lucy’s mother has made little use of her intelligence and married a man who has a bevy of other women, Lucy takes pains to avoid following the same path.
Lucy’s anger at her mother, however, goes beyond a disagreement about life choices and principles. Lucy calls her mother the great love of her life, and much of her rage is derived from what she sees as her mother’s rejection of that love with the birth of her brothers. From the difficult relationships that Lucy builds with the other women to her lack of true intimacy with men, the specter of Lucy’s lost love for her mother haunts her every move. Lucy’s feelings for her mother replicate her attitude toward her colonized homeland, which she both longs for and spurns in her mission to honor her true self. Only when Lucy attempts to resolve those feelings, by at once showing compassion for her mother and removing her from her life, can she begin to move forward by leaving Mariah’s home. Thus, Lucy’s mother both inspires and undermines Lucy’s quest for freedom, as Lucy attempts to flee the most important and persistent emotional bond of her existence.