2. She is a child of her age, of depression, of war, of fear.

This quotation appears at the end of the second-to-last paragraph, immediately preceding the narrator’s exhortation regarding Emily to “Let her be.” This attitude is representative of the narrator’s feelings toward her performance as a mother. Although the narrator has guiltily listed the personal shortcomings that prevented her from adequately caring for Emily, she also indicts larger, uncontrollable forces—depression, war, and fear—that thwart even the best of intentions. The poverty that arose during the Great Depression clearly influenced what went on in the household. It kept the narrator away from home because she needed to work. Armed conflict and the ensuing climate of fear that accompanied the Cold War were other powerful and looming presences, diminishing the hope and faith that had prevailed after World War II.

This quotation encapsulates the narrator’s belief that individual lives can be waylaid by uncontrollable, overpowering forces. This belief applies not only to Emily’s life but to her own life as well. The narrator herself struggled with bleak prospects and despair, which she attributes to inescapable social factors. The narrator does bear some responsibility for Emily’s problems, but as a single mother, she had no choice but to prioritize work and wage earning. Ultimately, the narrator admits her own guilt in creating Emily’s unspecified problem, but she freely blames depression, war, and fear as well.