Why do I attract these weird old women? [...] [T]hey all wanted to adopt me in some way, and, for the price of their care and influence, have me resemble them. (18.60)
In this passage, Esther looks back over the many older women who have attempted to mentor her in her life, and she doesn't find any of them adequate. None of them seems to have been able to enjoy a fulfilling romantic life and an intellectual life at the same time. Perhaps she resents most of all the fact that they are trying to mother her – and she's had quite enough mothering from her own mom.