Mom Luby and the Social Worker by Kristin Hunter
In Mom Luby and the Social Worker by Kristin Hunter we have the theme of love, responsibility, kindness, bureaucracy, connection, innocence and change. Narrated in the first person by a young thirteen year old boy called Elijah the reader realises after reading the story that Hunter may be exploring the theme of love. Mom Luby puts both Elijah and his sister Pudding before everyone else. She knows that it is her responsibility to look after them and as such goes to the government buildings seeking help (welfare). This may be important as Mom Luby knows that she is not entitled to welfare for the children but as they have no one else to look after them she takes on the responsibility. Whereas others might let Elijah and Pudding fend for themselves. Mom Luby knows that this is not an option. If anything Mom Luby is driven by doing the right thing for Elijah and Pudding. Knowing well that their lives would be even more difficult should they be left to their own devices. In reality Mom Luby is Elijah and Pudding’s mother in everything but name. She treats both children as though they were her own. She is kind to them and firm when she needs to be.
It may also be important that Miss Rushmore spends all of her time in Mom Luby’s home asking Mom Luby questions. Questions that Mom Luby may not necessarily have the right answer for. It is possible that Hunter is suggesting that with bureaucracy comes difficulty. Technically Mom Luby is entitled to nothing from the welfare office as neither Elijah nor Pudding are her children. However Hunter might be suggesting that some things like parentage should be overlooked if an individual is doing the job of a parent. As Mom Luby is doing. Life would be far more difficult for Elijah and Pudding without Mom Luby’s influence in their lives and it would cost the government very little to bend their rules a little. Miss Rushmore also appears to be judging Mom Luby by her extracurricular activities when the reality is she is a poor woman who is providing a service to other poor people. It is as though there is a disconnect between Miss Rushmore and Mom Luby. With Miss Rushmore being in disbelief as to how Mom Luby lives her life.
Throughout the story Mom Luby is honest. With the exception of her being Elijah and Pudding’s mother. She does not hide anything from Miss Rushmore. When the reality is she probably should. This may be important as it could suggest that Mom Luby is somewhat innocent. It could also suggest that Mom Luby and Miss Rushmore live two entirely different lives. With Hunter symbolically suggesting that the government (or Miss Rushmore) have no idea how people live their lives. It may also be case that Hunter is comparing both traditional and modern roles. Mom Luby knows how to do a lot of things however she is qualified to do none. That is if you take qualification to mean a piece of paper from a university or a government agency. If anything Mom Luby has learnt to do things from those who went before her. When there was no need for academic qualifications. Something which Miss Rushmore frowns upon. The list of forms that Mom Luby is told to fill out may also have some symbolic significance as Hunter could again be placing a spotlight on just how burdensome bureaucracy is to an individual. Not only has Mom Luby got to fill out the forms but she has to go to different buildings to fill out each form.
It is as though there are two sides of life in play in the story. The practical life of Mom Luby who carries on despite the difficulties she may incur and the impractical world of Miss Rushmore. It is also interesting that Miss Rushmore is in shock after she spends her day with Mom Luby. It is as though she can’t believe that Mom Luby does so much and is not qualified to do what she does. Without knowing it Mom Luby is breaking all the rules. Something that may be alien to Miss Rushmore. Who at times in the story is as rigid in her beliefs as she is in her appearance. It might also be a case that life will not change for Mom Luby. She has no intention of filling out all the forms and Miss Rushmore does not appear to be at the type of woman who will bend the rules for Mom Luby. Even if she is drinking illegally in Mom Luby’s back room. At the end of the story the reader realises that neither Mom Luby nor Miss Rushmore are going to change their ways with Mom Luby prepared to continue living her life without the assistance of the government.