Once Upon a River Themes & Motifs

Diane Setterfield
This Study Guide consists of approximately 77 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Once Upon a River.
This section contains 2,637 words
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Family

The characters in the novel are distinguished by their familial units. Family becomes the motivator for many of their actions. The girl’s arrival sparks the intense need for the adults to complete themselves by creating a family. The motivations are different for each of the familial units, including completing a broken family and beginning a new one. The diversity of family units creates these different motivations, proving that not all families look nor function in the same way. Despite this, they share a commonality: the need for love.

Victor’s abusive behavior stems from his own need to be loved, which motivates him to be in control. He feels entitled to this behavior because of others’ lack of loyalty to him paired with his desperation for a family: “I had a sister once—at least, I called her sister—but even she betrayed me” (425). Victor...

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This section contains 2,637 words
(approx. 7 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Once Upon a River Study Guide
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