1. A sound mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy state in this world. He that has these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants either of them, will be but little the better for any thing else. Men’s happiness or misery is most part of their own making. He, whose mind directs not wisely, will never take the right way; and he, whose body is crazy and feeble, will never be able to advance in it. I confess, there are some men’s constitutions of body and mind so vigorous, and well built by nature, that they need not much assistance from others; but by the strength of their natural genius, they are from their cradles carried towards what is excellent; and by the privilege of their happy constitutions, are able to do wonders. But examples of this kind are but few; and I think I may say, that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education. It is that which makes the great difference in mankind. The little, or almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies, have very important and lasting consequences: and there is as in the fountains of some rivers, where a gentle application of the hand turns the flexible waters in channels, that make them take quite contrary courses; and by this direction given them at first in the source, they receive different tendencies, and arrive at last at very remote and distant places.
8. Men learn languages for the ordinary intercourse of society and communication of thoughts in common life, without any farther design in the use of them. And for this purpose, the original way of learning a language by conversation not only serves well enough, but is to be preferred as the most expedite, proper and natural. Therefore, to this use of language one may answer, that grammar is not necessary. This so many of my readers must be forced to allow, as understand what I here say, and who conversing with others, understand them without having ever been taught the grammar of the English tongue. Which I suppose is the case of incomparably the greatest part of English men, of whom I have never yet known any one who learned his mother-tongue by rules.
Single motherhood is another obvious theme in the novel. Describe the situations where Kingslover idealizes the single mother, and diminishes the role of the father.
Another theme that comes up in the novel is that of family. Traditionally the word Family” meant a father, mother, and children (usually just 2 with the father being the provider, and the mother the caregiver. Kingslover presents several untraditional models of family. The first mother introduced in the novel, Alice Greer, sets the stage for all the models of motherhood to come. Alice is a loving, responsible single mother, who raises her daughter without a father. Taylor (the main character) becomes an adoptive mother overnight, acquiring a child of a different racial makeup and background than her own, and Lou Ann gives birth to a child on her own.