Mary Delany began her life’s work at the age of seventy-three, and became a role model in doing so. She created detailed replicas of flowers using colored paper. Delany called this new art form a flower mosiak. It is astounding to Molly Peacock that a woman could draw such passion and motivation so late in life. Peacock sees Delany as a symbol of hope for her own future.

Peacock’s philosophy on life coincides with her philosophy on role models. She believes that a “life’s work” will be largely unfinished indefinitely, that you can’t sum up an incomplete life. For this reason the best role models are deceased. Peacock goes on to compare two significant, deceased role models in her own life: Mary Delany and her mother. She begins to describe to early life of Delany, as it has been internalized in her soul. Delany lived a tumultuous life described in her memoir. Molly Peacock’s mother lived a life of hard work, defiance, and short-lived independence.

Peacock looks up to both of these women, and even sees similarities in them. Both Delany and Mrs. Peacock were part of a lack-lusted relationship – tied down if you will. Both broke free as well. These two women both have an appreciation for detail, as seen in their love of silhouettes. This attention to and appreciation of detail was passed from her role models to Molly Peacock.

Another parallel of these women was their ceremonious attempts to move on.  Mrs. P. “through out” her past and Delany began her life’ work at the same stage in their lives. Despite their different backgrounds and class, the memories of Delany and Mrs. P are somehow reminiscent of each other’s. However, a contrast is seen between the two when examining their personalities. Mrs. P.’s would always settle for less and Mrs. Delany would “walk for miles.”

An interesting way to analyze their differences is to assume that they lived their stages of life in an opposite order. Mrs. P. rested from the trials of her early life, whereas Delany lived out her excitement and passion after a dull early life. As the essay goes on you see that the similarities between Mrs. P. and Delany were superficial and that, truthfully, they were more or less opposites.

Finally the message, the maxim drawn from her two inspirations is revealed: Complexity. Life is immeasurably complex and this why we need role models at every stage of life. We need a model of invention to react against. We need a model to agree or disagree with. These examples we rely on create a balm of answering likeness.

Tone: Respectful, inspired.


  • cudgel: a short heavy club
  • sub-rosa: secretive, private

Rhetorical Strategies:

  • Parallelism: “[Mary] was a young woman who had heard a heavy door clang shut on her life.” pg. 178, “Soon my mother would become Mrs. P., and a door would be shutting for her, too.” pg. 179
  • Allusion: “…any square inch of which might be replicated and blown up to become an abstraction very much like a Henri Matisse cutout…”182

  • Accumulatio: “Complexity! That was it. I saw the vision of a person who was not…a multitude of vectors brings us to the moment where we are…with a key, a tissue, a truth, a love, a victory…” p188-189.