Quote 5

“But these are not my own emotions anymore. They are Cordelia’s; as they always were. I am the older one now, I’m the stronger. If she stays here any longer, she will freeze to death; she will be left behind, in the wrong time…. It’s all right, I say to her. You can go home now.”

This quotation appears in Chapter 74, when Elaine returns to the ravine and relives her trauma. Here, Elaine finally lets go of the past by acknowledging her present success and that she has lost Cordelia. While reenacting the traumatic day, Elaine imagines herself in the role of the Virgin of Lost Things, highlighted by the black dress she wears that matches the vision from her childhood, whereas Cordelia takes on the role of the lost, trapped girl. Elaine explicitly acknowledges that Cordelia as a child was just as emotionally lost as Elaine had been, presumably from her father’s bullying. Alongside this acknowledgement, Elaine recognizes that she no longer feels how she used to as a child because she now has a loving husband, children, and a successful career. From this place of strength, Elaine now imagines herself as she once imagined the Virgin Mary rescuing her in the ravine. In re-imagining her trauma, Elaine doesn’t attempt to rewrite the past but recognizes her new position in the present as a powerful mother-figure who can feel compassion even for her childhood bully.

This scene also functions as an exorcism of Cordelia’s ghost. As an adult, Elaine cannot let go of her past. Elaine imagines every woman as a potential Cordelia, cruel and backstabbing, haunting her every moment. Notably, the Cordelia who haunts Elaine is also forever nine years old, trapped with Elaine. Even the real Cordelia appears trapped in this time loop. In their meetings as adults, Cordelia repeats the same stories about their school years that ultimately lead to her revealing how miserable she was as a child. In this scene, Elaine’s admission that she and Cordelia both suffered from similar, painful feelings finally allows Elaine to move forward by telling Cordelia she can go home. This phrase has two meanings. First, Elaine banishes the specter of Cordelia as the girl who bullied her to her home in the past, thus separating the wrathful child Cordelia from the potential adult Cordelia. Second, the phrase evokes compassion for a hurt child, emphasizing that Elaine can now see both Cordelia the bully and Cordelia the victim. In acknowledging both parts of Cordelia, Elaine has freed herself.