The thing about Dolores Roach is that she is not a victim of her circumstances. But she is intensely angry. A lot of what we can understand about Dolores’ current situation in The Horror of Dolores Roach comes from what we know about her past life. Before she went to prison, she was dating Dominic and was a bit of a queen of the area. Dolores’ parents had passed away when she was in school, and she had done three semesters of college before she dropped out to be with Dominic. We do not know whether she dropped out due to a lack of funds or because she did not care anymore now that she had Dominic by her side.
Dolores was madly in love at that time, and in a lot of ways, there is nothing worse than a young woman in love. Not having had enough experiences means that she is often blind to the pitfalls of centering her life around a man and not keeping her own future in sight. If she had been slightly more aware of this, she would have completed her education and kept in touch with Georgina Bellyard, her best friend. It takes a special kind of delusion to let go of your friends for the sake of your boyfriend or husband. But Dolores had no way of knowing that back then. She was the queen of the street, and everybody was scared of her. Of course, it would be a long time before Dolores realized that it was not her but her association with Dominic that caused people to be wary.
The point is that when Dolores was living with Dominic, she was on top of the world, and at that time, she must have believed that she was better than everyone and that she had really lucked out in life. That is why, true to the saying, Dolores fell very hard from the height she was at. She was sent to jail for 16 years, and though she never told the police that Dominic was the real culprit, she knew that she had been abandoned by him since he never came to visit her. The person she was suffering for couldn’t have made it more clear that he did not care about her. It must have hurt more when she was released from prison and found that Dominic had likely never thought about her as well. That is why her money, which she had kept hidden, was gone, and he was nowhere to be found. It was only at that moment that Dolores knew that in her entire life, she had done nothing for herself but had blindly relied on other people. There may have been a time before she met Dominic when she was self-sufficient, studying, and preparing for her future. But once she met him, she treated him as the magic solution to all the problems of her life and let him lead her wherever she went. She was paying for that lack of control now.
When Dolores came to know that she had been framed by Dominic to take the fall for his business, she was completely devastated. It is one thing for feelings to fizzle out when the other person is out of their sight, but to know that the significant chunk of time they have spent together was always a lie is a different kind of blow. This meant that she had wasted her life on a man who did not care for her even once. There was no meaning to anything she had done, and this made her extremely angry because she had been lied to about what she meant and manipulated into building a life around it.
Dolores had started making something of her own with a massage parlor in Luis’ basement. When Gideon Pearlman came knocking on their door, saying he wanted “better people,” Dolores initially tried to calm down the situation. But what ticked her off was his attitude. It wasn’t about the money for Mr. Pearlman but who he deemed good enough. Dolores had suffered in her life because neither Dominic nor anybody else thought she was good enough. Now, she was once again about to lose something precious to her, something that proved that Dolores mattered, and she was not ready to let that go. If you really consider it, Dolores would have found an identity without doing all this. She could have set up her practice somewhere else, and Luis would have supported her in the meantime. Dolores could also have looked in other places for a job because not everyone would have rejected her.
The circumstances were not dire enough for Dolores to kill Gideon Pearlman, but she did that anyway because he was just another person who was playing around with her life. This is also the reason she killed Marcie because she was part of what had made Dolores feel so worthless. Unlike Dolores, Marcie had always been in charge of herself, and that is what enabled her to be smart about the extent of her involvement with people like Dominic. This is also what enabled her to take over his business when he disappeared. We think that one of the reasons Dolores didn’t want to work for Marcie was because, even though it was the same work she had been doing in Gideon’s time, she wouldn’t be treated as a queen this time around. Also, Marcie was someone Dolores considered “beneath her” back in the day, so working for her now was jarring for Dolores’ ego. This is precisely why she made the snap decision to kill her. It was just a cannonball event from there on.
This lack of control and faith is also precisely why Dolores is so fond of Nellie. She was the only one who had shown faith in Dolores and encouraged her to work harder on herself. To be fair, even Luis was doing that, but Dolores clearly didn’t respect him. She was with him only because he protected her from her own impulsive crimes. The moment she knew that he wouldn’t be able to do that going forward, she killed him in the worst way imaginable. Dolores was far from a victim of her circumstances, and that is what she says at the end of the series. She was a selfish person who acted based on her emotions, and that is the entire basis of The Horror of Dolores Roach.