Critical Introduction

The Terrific Critical Edition of “Terrific Mother” by Lorrie Moore

“The Individuation of Adrienne Porter” explores Lorrie Moore’s “Terrific Mother” through the psychological critical lens. Laura Lax uses Carl G. Jung’s theories of psychoanalysis in order to explore the psychological journey taken by Adrienne after the death of the Spearsons’ baby. Lax proposes that the death of the baby forces Adrienne onto a path toward what Jung calls “individuation”: the attainment of wholeness of the psyche only possible by a complete balance of all of its parts. Adrienne deals with her trauma, Lax says, by herself regressing into childhood and living out, so to speak, the death of the baby that she failed to prevent. Only through this harrowing psychological journey is Adrienne able to forgive herself for the accidental death of the newborn and finally achieve individuation.

In her “Reader Response Analysis”, Brittani Cooper proposes that Lorrie Moore has created a short story that elicits many responses from readers, but a realization of the societal norms that are placed on women is a prominent one. Moore uses her main female character, Adrienne, to demonstrate to readers the societal norms that need to be broken, such as men being the scholars while women are just the spouses, women are not the intellectuals in the group, and that every woman has to be a dutiful wife and mother. Adrienne uses the artistic retreat that she and her husband are on as a means of finding herself again, and she breaks down these societal norms from the inside, not just the outside.

Payton McClelland explores Lorrie Moore’s “Terrific Mother” from the feminist criticism lens. In this, we investigate what it means to be a success of a woman and what it may mean to be a failure. The short story has suggested themes of motherhood and the purpose of a wife which will be explored as well. McClelland finds a deeper meaning in the guilt and shame that comes with failing to be a good wife and caretaker that society raises women to believe is their main purpose in life.

Tyler Burke explores Lorrie Moore’s “Terrific Mother” through a deconstruction lens, analyzing different gender roles in society today and also how relationships in today’s society are. The story talks about the main character Adrienne and how she dropped her friend’s baby and how she feels like a failed woman. Burke goes into detail about parenting and gender roles with not only mothers but fathers as well and their roles of parenting and roles if they are single parents.

Tania Agurto delves into Lorrie Moore’s “Terrific Mother” through Historical / Biographical Criticism lens in order to explore the context in which this short story was written.  What events could have influenced Moore in the development of Adrianne and Martin’s character or what aspects of Moore’s life or personality are reflected in Adrianne.  It is an invitation to have a broader vision at the magnificent work of Lorrie Moore.

Lauren Kozup’s essay covers “Terrific Mother” using the New Criticism lens to show that the main character, Adrienne, is the epitome of a failed women. Lorrie Moore gives her audience a story of raw struggles and mistakes through the life of  this young woman. Through both summary and analysis, this essay navigates what it means to be a good mother and an exceptional woman in society.


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Beginnings and Endings: A Critical Edition Copyright © 2021 by Liza Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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