Marilyn says this to herself when she first finds out about Lydia's disappearance. Marilyn reflects upon her past experiences with Lydia, and she recalls the moment that her daughter first started walking. Seeing Lydia walk was a surprise for Marilyn, as Lydia didn’t show any signs that she was about to take her first steps. This detail supports the notion that from an early age, Lydia was never fully understood by her parents. In addition, she had the ability to hide her true feelings and intentions from those closest to her.
"So when James came home that night, she said simply, 'My mother died.' Then she turned back to the stove and added, 'And the lawn needs mowing,' and he understood: they would not talk about it."
Marilyn is overwhelmed by complicated emotions following her mother's death. Marilyn deeply resents her mother for failing to acknowledge her marriage and insisting that her daughter's educational pursuits were worthless. Following Doris's death, Marilyn realizes that, despite her best efforts, she is following in her mother's footsteps. This prompts Marilyn to begin making major changes in her life. However, her inability to discuss her feelings with her husband exemplifies the emotionally closed relationship that the two share. Both James and Marilyn are afraid to be vulnerable with one another, which leads to many instances of miscommunication.
"For the rest of the world, 1976 was a topsy-turvy time, too, culminating in an unusually cold winter and strange headlines."
This quote provides historical context for the novel. In line with the strange occurrences happening in the world around them, the Lee family's life is tumultuous. This detail indicates that the Lees are inextricably tied to the world in which they live. Instability in the United States, particularly post-WWII, further causes the Lees feelings of insecurity to heighten.
"This little man, five-foot-nine at most and not even American, was going to teach them about cowboys?"
This description indicates how James Lee is seen by his community. Even though he is an esteemed academic, James is not taken seriously due to his race. He is incessantly discriminated against and taunted, and his self-esteem is irreparably damaged due to the harassment he faces. James's field of study, American history, perhaps symbolizes his desire to assimilate into a culture that ultimately denies him a place in it.
"Coming to her made him feel perfectly welcomed, perfectly at home, as he had never in his life felt before."
This quote represents the motif of home throughout the novel. James, who has perpetually felt like an outcast in American society, finds solace in Marilyn's acceptance of him. This demonstrates the significance of James and Marilyn's marriage, particularly in the early days. As time progresses, James loses this sense of hope and belonging, and attempts to regain his sense of cultural and romantic acceptance through Louisa.
"After a few stuttering replies, the spotlight would swivel back to Lydia, and Nath would retreat to his room and his aeronautics magazines."
This quote demonstrates the special treatment Lydia receives from her parents. Due to Lydia's favoritism, Nath feels neglected and unwanted. In this way, Nath's studies become a way for him to escape his unfair family situation.
"Sweetheart, I know high school might not feel important, but it's the foundation for the rest of your life."
Marilyn tells this to Lydia in order to motivate her daughter to perform better in school. However, these words do not encourage Lydia. Rather, they deeply upset her and make her feel as though she will never live up to her mother's expectations. These feelings prompt Lydia to feel overwhelmed and isolated within her family.
"'Don't you talk to me that way,' he says. 'Don't you question me. You don't know anything about my life'."
James yells at Nath after his son confronts him about his affair with Louisa. While Nath questions James's authority and morality, James's response reveals a major theme in the novel. All characters keep secrets from one another, and no one truly understands the other's motivations for their behaviors.
"'Your mother's home,' he said, as if they couldn't see her standing there in the doorway behind him."
James is shocked that Marilyn has returned following her unannounced departure. This moment reveals James's insecurity about his marriage. Ultimately, he is unable to trust whether Marilyn will remain a loyal mother and wife due to her unresolved feelings concerning her education. Although James is thrilled at his wife's return, he still struggles to believe that she is here to stay.
"For as long as she's been alive, the family has never spoken of it, and even if they had, it would have changed nothing."
The narrator is describing how Hannah does not know about her mother's disappearance that one summer. Although Hannah is a minor character in the novel, she is repeatedly described as being invisible and unnoticed. In this way, she has become an active observer, attempting to understand the complex nuances of her family members as a way to compensate for the lack of attention she is given.
Everything I Never Told You Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Everything I Never Told You is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.