Poor, poor Marian. She’s dead by the time the book begins, and yet she’s always hanging over the heads of our main characters.
For Camille, Marian represents both of their lost childhoods. Marian was all the things you could want in a little girl: sweet, innocent, and seemingly full of life. In contrast (at least according to Adora), Camille was stubborn, recalcitrant, and unwilling to succumb to Adora’s administrations. So Camille doted on Marian and clung to her because she was probably the only joyful thing in the Crellin house. When Marian dies, it seems like nothing will ever be the same:
Marian died on my thirteenth birthday. I woke up, padded down the hall to say hello – always the first thing I did – and found her, eyes open, blanket pulled up to her chin. I remember not being that surprised. She’d been dying for as long as I could remember. (4.206)
Her death becomes the catalyst for almost all of Camille’s struggles: It is the same summer she dies that Camille starts cutting herself and allowing herself to be used sexually by local boys.
“It was hard for me, too,” I nudged. “I was actually surprised how hard. I miss her. Still. Isn’t that weird?”
“It would be weird if you didn’t. She’s your sister. It’s almost as painful as losing a child. Even though you were so young.” (3.74)