The source of desire: the mother in three twentieth century novels

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Advisor: Andrew Slade


The portrayal of the mother in literature is symbolic of how she is understood in culture. She is the mystery from which life springs and upon which it is put to death. The twentieth century novels In Search of Lost Time, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and East of Eden paint a picture of the mother as she exists in relation to the struggling individual, her child. Each of the novels and each of the mother figures within them exist within a patriarchal structure that characterizes the mother-child relationship and informs our understanding of those relationships. I argue that each of the novels allows for an analysis of the mother in the mother-child relationship as a particular source of growth and struggle: the source of desire. However, I also argue that the mother can be so clearly analyzed this way only because she is understood within a particular, patriarchal context. Her mystery is contained and, often times, contaminated.


Proust, Marcel, 1871-1922. À la recherche du temps perdu Criticism, Textual, García Márquez, Gabriel, 1927-2014. Cien años de soledad Criticism, Textual, Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968. East of Eden Criticism, Textual, Mothers in literature, Families in literature, American literature; comparative literature; families and family life; literature; mother; desire; intimacy; Proust; Marquez; Steinbeck

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2013, author