Unless Themes

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In this novel, Carol Shields explores the theme of displacement or estrangement as well as its natural consequence, suffering. The most obvious example is the estrangement between Reta and her oldest daughter, Norah. However, this estrangement also extends to other members of the family, including her husband, Tom, their two other daughters, and her mother-in-law, Lois. Throughout the novel, there are no attempts by the characters to comfort each other in the face of what can only be described as a destructive change to their family.

Tom and Reta seem to have a relationship with little cohesiveness or common interests. He demonstrates no interest in her writing; she only tolerates his hobby of studying trilobites. His mother is even further removed from Reta. Although Lois eats dinner every night with Tom and his family, there is no common ground between these two very different women.

Reta and her...

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This section contains 1,329 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Unless Study Guide
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