A simple-minded woman, totally dominated by her husband, Hattie Raines emerges in Relentless as a central, albeit flawed character. She is pivotal to the plot. Were she not exactly who she is the story could not have proceeded as it did. Although she appears to be a rather dull, unimportant character she is exactly the opposite. Because of her conflict-avoidant nature she fails to protect her child which is central to our heroine’s decisions; and because of her naiveté, Hattie is manipulated into the dangerous role of killer’s secret-keeper. Hattie is first and foremost Earl’s wife and he rules his family with an iron fist. Accommodating to him is her life-long pattern and to maintain that pattern she is determinedly narrow in her focus. Uneducated and removed from the world around her, Hattie persists in maintaining fixed, rigid ideas about herself and the people in her life only questioning her perceptions at the very end.
In some ways, Hattie Raines represents ‘every-woman.’ She embodies the plight facing many women in the world today, those who are bound by culture, religion, economics or tradition, who are dominated and controlled by their husbands or fathers, who are rigidly role-bound and unable to see beyond the constraints of everyday life. As I wrote about her, I saw a woman caught up in moral dilemmas she didn’t even notice. And I think had she but seen one of these issues, had she but recognized one place where she could change, she could have turned the whole situation around. Earl knew that, most dominators/abusers do. They keep their women hidden away from other people, away from institutions of learning, away from books, newspapers, TV. Anything other than ‘their way’ is regarded as a threat to the status quo and the status quo is what preserves their power so it must be maintained at all cost.
If we look at Relentless from this angle, Hattie and Earl Raines represent flaws inherent in the human condition but they also highlight the importance continuing growth, learning and expanding beyond the boundaries of yesterday.