Mildred Pierce Summary, Character Analysis, and Opinion

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Summary:

Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain, begins in pre-Depression California, and ends during World War II times, also in California. The main character, Mildred Pierce, is a very attractive housewife of 29, raising two daughters, Ray and Veda. Although Mildred loves both her daughters, Veda is a particular obsession with Mildred. She constantly slaves away throughout the novel to do whatever she can to make Veda happy, despite the constant abuse and deception Veda inflicts upon Mildred. After a divorce from her first husband, Bert, in the opening pages of the novel, Mildred is forced to sacrifice her pride and become a waitress in order to support her family. If Veda were ever to find out, she would be appalled; a constantly recurring theme throughout this story is Veda's pride and arrogance, and her condemnation of jobs she deems to be menial. Mildred's main goal is to nurture Veda's musical talents, and manages to pay for expensive music lessons from her meager salaries as a waitress and pie baker. However, Mildred's luck is soon to change, as she takes up with an attorney and former partner of Bert, Wally. Mildred is able to use Wally's business and real estate savvy to build a restaurant out of a deserted model home, and from there create a thriving chain of three food businesses. After becoming bored with Wally, however, Mildred craves a relationship with another man, a prestigious local man named Monty. Veda highly approves of her mother's choice, as this makes her feel as if she too were more prestigious and affluent, despite having misgivings about her mother still being so low as to have an average, pedestrian job. All seems to be going well; even through Veda's constant demands and tantrums, she still gets everything she wants, and Mildred and Monty are happy. Monty, however, falls on hard times with the coming of the Great Depression, and he constantly mooches off of Mildred's affluence, making it a struggle for Mildred to cater to Veda's every...
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