Study Guide

She's Come Undone Coming of Age

By Wally Lamb

Coming of Age

When I was ten and a half, my family moved to Treetop Acres. (2.1)

We think it's a requirement in any coming of age story for the family to move and for the main character to become The New Kid, which is exactly what happens to Dolores here.

I saw and felt it at the same time: the dark wet blotch of blood. (2.127)

Here's another coming-of-age cliché: the first period. Dolores's mother doesn't react supportively at all, which is a red flag that this whole coming-of-age process is going to be painful.

Jeanette's correspondence was spotty and filled with hurtful proof that her life was proceeding without me. (3.54)

After Dolores moves, she has to learn a harsh life lesson: Her BFFL was really just her BFFN—a.k.a. best friend for now.

I drew my pillow slowly toward me, kissing it first with my mouth closed and then with it open. The tip of my tongue poked out, touching the dry fuzzy cloth. (5.49)

Awkward experiments with sexuality are all part of the coming-of-age process, and here we see Dolores making out with her pillow. Classic.

I closed my eyes and the hairbrush dropped to the floor. My hands wandered the insides of my thighs, back and forth against my wet underpants. Eddie's hands. Jack's. (5.110)

More awkward sex experiments here, but why does she fantasize about her dead uncle?

"If [Dolores] decides not to go to college, you may both regret it for the rest of your lives." (8.6)

Grandma acts like if only Dolores had made this decision sooner, Ma would still be alive, which is ridiculous. Ma might not have died angry if Dolores would have just grown up sooner, but Dolores's attitude has nothing to do with the accident that killed her mother.

"Trying, perhaps, to reenter the safety of your mother—to return to the warm, wet protection of the person who hadn't yet failed you." (17.116)

Because Dolores's coming-of-age process was such a mess, it seems to have stunted her emotional growth as an adult. Her therapist suggests they try it all over again in a figurative rebirthing process.

Early and middle childhood were my easiest phases. (18.2)

Aren't they always? Things always go downhill once you become a teenager.

"Now that you're menstruating, it's nice, because I can love you as a friend, too—as an equal." (18.53)

Dr. Shaw, by responding in a supportive manner—completely the opposite of the way Dolores's mother reacts—takes Dolores's new coming-of-age process in a much better direction.