Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Anna Quindlen, One True Thing (1994)

Anna Quindlen’s novel One True Thing (1994) examines the domestic politics and family dynamics of an American middle-class nuclear family confronted by the deterioration and eventual loss of its central member, the mother, due to inoperable cancer.  While doing this, the novel explores contemporary feminist debates and issues regarding sources of female fulfilment, either through pursuing a career or through homemaking.  The novel finds grounds to respect the homemaker (the mother Kate) while not detracting from its appreciation of the value of careers for women (expressed through the daughter Ellen). 

These issues are dealt with while exploring the ebb and flow of Ellen and Kate’s mother−daughter relationship.  Ellen discovers the great strength of her homemaking mother in enduring the philandering of her husband George, a man who has significant shortcomings despite having had a successful academic career. 

The novel also deals with the cycle of deterioration and death from cancer, covering the phases experienced by both the patient and the patient’s family.  While doing so, the novel advances the case for euthanasia, or assisted suicide, as a dignified option for dying people who are in pain and have lost a degree of dignity greater than they can bear. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: One True Thing meaning, One True Thing themes, One True Thing analysis, One True Thing notes