The Gulden family and many of Langhorne residence provide a model of traditional family life and value to a substantial degree, as prevalent during the 1950s in America. In the novel "One True Thing- by Anna Quindlen we are presented with a paradigm of a "perfect family- who complies with gender-based assumptions. It portrays the father as the sole incomer-earner and decision maker, while the mother is the homemaker, economically and socially dependent and the children are dutiful and respectful.
However it is thought Kates illness that the image of family life providing happiness and satisfaction is exposed as a myth, an illusion "of one imaged oasis after another-. The citizens, of Langhorne, display attitudes that are far from the lively ones of New Yorkers, such as Ellen's, and its citizens value stability above all, preferring that it be undisturbed by matters such as cancer. In fact "acknowledging the disease- would require them to admit their fear, the danger, and the death and thus to accept reality. The resulting discomfort would shatter their surreal family patterns. .
The traditional family is at the heart of the novel. Quindlen emphasizes that a small college town in Middle America, a family was expected to conduct itself in a responsible and moral way. The maintenance of conservative community cohesion and a stable family life were regarded as desirable goals, one "more important than love-.
George is drawn as a traditional husband, charismatic in the workplace but insensitive and generally unemotional at home. Ellen realizes the contrast, "the lover, the dazzler, the charmer- of his female graduates, to his persona at home: the distant man who sometimes remembered to turn the same charm on to manipulate his wife and daughter. A busy college professor, he is aware that he relies on his wife to be a diligent housewife, a competent cook and a faithful partner, allowing himself to create a world in which he is would be "effortlessly cared for-.