Is the mother's career as an actress supposed to represent the frivolous urban life contrasted with the naturalistic life that John Grady prefers?
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Wow, you pretty much put the answer into the question. I think yes.
also to show a similarity between alejandra and her in that JG's dad thought his wife's love of horses would just be enough. But she left him to pursue other things like move to Ca. It seemed like JG loved Alejandra for her love of horses also, or that being a main reason, but Alejandra didn't leave to Texas with him, to keep the love of her family, and her family's rich tradition.