Olsen's story revolves around a mother and her daughter. It tracks how their relationship changes as the daughter reaches adolescence and the mother remarries and builds a new family. Their relationship is one of the defining features of their characters.
Social status is a defining character trait in a story overtly concerned with issues of class. The story is told from the perspective of the working-class narrator, who views others through this social position. Those in positions of power are usually referred to as an anonymous and indifferent "they." A major question left unanswered by the story is how Emily's working-class background will affect her future.
Since the story is filtered through the mother's perspective, her thoughts and opinions give us important insights into her character, as well as the characters of those around her.