The Relationship Between Mother and Daughter in James Cain’s Mildred Pierce

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The Relationship Between Mother and Daughter in James Cain’s Mildred Pierce

I have always been of the belief that in order to truly love, hate must exist within the core of the relationship. Nowhere in modern fiction is this dictum examined more accurately than in the novel by James Cain, Mildred Pierce. Looking at the concept in a familial context, James Cain has created two well-developed characters, Mildred Pierce and her daughter, Veda, that not only emphasizes the nature of mother-daughter relationships, but looks at how love and hate permeates the very essence of the relationship. The Irish poet Thomas Moore once described the fascination of these violently fluctuating emotions, “When I loved you, I can’t but allow/ I had many
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Yet, if we look closely at the relationship between these two, the relationship seems to be a reversal of this theory; it is the mother, not the daughter that can’t imagine separation. In fact, the mother takes on the persona of the daughter and daughter acts as an uncaring caretaker.

In certain sections in the novel, Veda is the mother and Mildred is the helpless, unproven daughter. Cain ends several chapters with the mother, Mildred, exclaiming to the daughter, Veda, “...Every good thing that happens is on account of you, if Mother only had sense enough to know it” (Cain 88). These proclamations only further advance the capitulation of the tenuous strings of control Mildred employs over Veda.

“Because females are more often trained to pay attention to inner feelings and emotional relationships, it is usually the daughter… who feels responsible for the mother” (Phillips 107). But Veda is not the typical daughter, for Veda, the relationship she shares with Mildred is secondary to her own personal agenda to ascend to the class of the elite.

“In part, tensions arise because patriarchal propaganda creates ambivalence in daughter about the value of their relationship with their mothers. Daughters long for closeness with their mothers but they are confused by the images of mothers as the enemy, mothers as having low status, mothers as neurotic” (Phillips 47). This is a constant theme in Veda’s interaction with

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