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Like Molly, Carrie is stubborn and strong-willed and has a well-defined sense of values and an aversion to class pretense. In other words, she is proud and poor. Molly reveals that even though Carrie is well below the poverty line, she assiduously refuses handouts, and Carrie is pleased that Molly is intellectually superior to the rich northerners who are her classmates in New York. Even when she is emotionally destroyed by Carl’s death, Carrie notes with caustic humor that they never could have ridden in a Lincoln Continental if Carl hadn’t died. Carrie’s observation in this scene points to her astute awareness of how class differences are played out in everyday life.
Unlike Molly, Carrie is firmly rooted in the patriarchal social system that prescribes secondary, supporting, and, above all, “ladylike” roles for women. This difference constitutes much of the tension between Carrie and Molly, especially when Carrie learns of Molly’s lesbianism and throws her out of the house. Carrie’s resentment of Molly ultimately stems from the fact that she couldn’t have a child of her own. Because she believes genuine maternity consists of giving birth to one’s own child, Carrie cannot accept Molly as her daughter or as an individual. She frequently rebukes Molly for arrogance and unladylike behavior, revealing how threatened she is by Molly’s brazen illegitimacy and how deeply she believes in traditional gender roles. At heart, Carrie wants Molly to inherit the shame she feels as an illegitimate mother. As an older woman, alone and dying of cancer, Carrie asserts that she never disowned Molly and that she’s always seen herself as Molly’s true mother, but whether she actually believes this is unclear.
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