By presenting the personalities from both sides of the family, the narrator foreshadows the roles that Johnny and Katie will play in Francie's life, and the difficulties they will confront. The Rommely women are made of "invisible steel" while the Nolan men are "weak" and "talented." When Katie Rommely vows that she wants to spend her life with Johnny, the narrator warns that this might have been a mistake. The reader is lead to believe that Johnny will not change over the course of the book, but will remain a romantic who relies completely on his wife to support his family. Likewise, the narrator mentions that Johnny marries Katie six months after he has promised to spend his life taking care of his mother.

The American dream motif arises in Chapter 8 when Mary Rommely gives Katie advice about having a daughter. Mary, a first generation American, thinks about her family in terms of bettering each generation. Her exclamation that her children know how to read and writes demonstrates how much faith she has that education will be her family's way out of poverty. She sees America as a place of promise, where one may detach oneself from serfdom forever by owning land. Most of Katie's decisions about her family's life come from this conversation with her mother. The American dream motif is closely related to the theme of hope amidst hardship. This theme presents itself more through Katie than Johnny. Katie receives the parenting advice, and Katie will be the one who has more resources to improve her children's lives.

The theme of gender difference also arises in these chapters. Mary Rommely has rather progressive thoughts on gender, in spite of—or perhaps because of—her husband's cruel behavior. She grieves when Katie gives birth because she knows "to be born a woman [means] a life of humble hardship." Chapter 7 also includes a scene that demonstrates the strength of women's camaraderie; Evy mimics her husband for Katie and Francie. They laugh together, "about a secret they shared concerning the weakness of a man." This scene shows a space that belongs only to women—the three laugh in the kitchen alone without men. Such a scene allows for women to develop their own thoughts and ideas, without competing with men for speaking time. Throughout this book, nearly every birth scene provides an opportunity for women to spend time with each other alone, doing things men can never know. The narrator suggests that the shared pain of childbirth facilitates female bonding.