Lorraine's mother has some pretty big issues. Lorraine is unable to be herself because her mother doesn't allow her to, in addition to the fact that her mother demeans her at every turn. Lorraine is being raised by a woman who constantly tells her that she is ugly and clumsy.... that she can't do anything right. Lorraine also pays the price for her mother's anger at her father, who had an affair with another woman and took off before Lorraine was born. In context, all of these things serve to make Lorraine self-conscious and overly critical of who she is. She cannot act freely and be herself in front of her mother because the response is always negative. She does, however, blossom as an individual over the course of the novel and through her friendship with John. Her mother's treatment also enhances Lorraine's feelings of compassion for those who are most in need.