Burial Rites

Margrét is Jón's wife and Lauga and Steina's mother. Margrét is plagued by a cough caused by the mold in the house at Kornsá, which hinders her ability to work and occasionally causes her to cough up blood. Margrét begins by being harsh towards Agnes, but over time the two women develop an amiable relationship. Agnes makes Margrét a jelly for her cough and confides in Margrét extensively, ultimately telling Margrét her side of what happened the night of the murders.

Margrét Quotes in Burial Rites

The Burial Rites quotes below are all either spoken by Margrét or refer to Margrét. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Back Bay Books edition of Burial Rites published in 2014.
Chapter 2 Quotes

What sort of woman kills men?
The only murderesses Margrét had known were the women in the sagas, and even then, it was with words that they had killed men; orders given to servants to slay lovers or avenge the death of kin. Those women murdered from a distance and kept their fingers clean. But these times are not saga times…This woman is not a saga woman.

Related Characters: Agnes Magnúsdottir, Margrét
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 11 Quotes

“Thórbjörg had an inkling of what Fridrik planned. She knew about some sheep Fridrik stole. She lied to the courtroom…Thórbjörg saved my life,” Agnes added after a moment’s pause. “She found me on her doorstep after Natan threw me out. I would have died had she not brought me inside and let me stay there.”
Margrét nodded. “No one is all bad.”

Related Characters: Agnes Magnúsdottir (speaker), Margrét (speaker), Fridrik Sigurdsson, Thórbjörg
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 13 Quotes

I am crying and my mouth is open and filled with something, it is choking me and I spit it out. On the ground is a stone, and I look back at Margrét, and see that she did not notice. “The stone was in my mouth,” I say.

Related Characters: Agnes Magnúsdottir (speaker), Margrét, Ingveldur Rafnsdóttir
Related Symbols: Agnes’s Mother’s Stone
Page Number: 307
Explanation and Analysis:
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Margrét Character Timeline in Burial Rites

The timeline below shows where the character Margrét appears in Burial Rites. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
The narrative returns to the third-person as Jón Jónsson and Margrét set out for home, three days after Blöndal’s visit to their daughters Steina and Lauga.... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
...goes to greet their parents. Lauga’s mind races as she prepares broth for Jón and Margrét. She decides to tell them about Blöndal’s visit while they eat together in the badstofa. (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
When Jón and Margrét arrive, Jon greets Lauga with a kiss. Margrét and Lauga hug. Margrét asks where Steina... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Once Jón and Margrét are settled in the badstofa, Lauga brings them bowls of broth. Lauga tries to tell... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Steina’s news horrifies Margrét, as they all know that Agnes was convicted of murder. Lauga is angry with Steina... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
...explains that, as a District Officer, he is obligated to fulfill his responsibility to Blöndal. Margrét is angry, asking why he, of all the District Officers, must shoulder this responsibility. Jón... (full context)
Chapter 2
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
The narrative changes back to third-person to describe Tóti standing in the doorway with Margrét, watching the group of riders arrive with Agnes. Tóti asks if Lauga and Steina will... (full context)
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Margrét points out a flock of ravens to Tóti and asks if he is a man... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
A rider reaches the edge of the homestead, dismounts, and greets Margrét and Tóti. He tells Margrét that Agnes will not cause any trouble, and they will... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
The narrative returns to the third-person as Margrét cleans up from dinner while Lauga and Steina sleep. The house at Kornsá has begun... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Margrét sends the guard away and steers Agnes into the kitchen, where she tells Agnes to... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
The narrative switches back to following Margrét, who wakes early to the snoring of the officer who was supposed to stay awake... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Margrét, still in bed, thinks of her former servants, imagining them killing her like Agnes killed... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Margrét thinks of how dirty Agnes’s body looked as she had helped her wash the previous... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Margrét’s thoughts dissipate and she looks around the badstofa at everyone else sleeping. The officer is... (full context)
Chapter 3
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...to counteract her sadness, but the memories feel hollow. Agnes opens her eyes and sees Margrét lying awake. Margrét turns and sees Agnes watching her. Margrét tells Agnes to get up... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
Margrét then asks Agnes about her work experience as a servant and whether she can do... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Margrét quickly tells Agnes to go into the house. When Snaebjörn gets closer, he greets Margrét.... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
...out, Snaebjörn excuses himself and Páll to do some work, leaving Róslín to chat with Margrét. Margrét falls into a spell of coughing. Róslín says she worries about her and that... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
Margrét tells Róslín that Agnes has been placed in their care. Róslín says that she actually... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Róslín tells Margrét that she feels sorry for her, and warns her that the murderers of “good” Pétur... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
As Róslín describes the graphic rumors about the murders, Margrét wishes that she would leave. Róslín continues to talk dramatically about Agnes and to ask... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
...to Agnes’s first person perspective as she, having been sent back to the badstofa by Margrét, sees that the sleeping officer, Lauga, and Steina are now gone. She realizes with exhilaration... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...the brooch and Lauga calls for Steina, who comes running in. They both yell for Margrét. When Margrét appears in the doorway, she screams at Agnes not to touch anything in... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
The narrative moves back to Agnes’s first person perspective. Agnes and Margrét milk sheep together and then burn Agnes’s old dress, which she had sewed with Sigga.... (full context)
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Margrét and Agnes go to do work in the herb garden to escape the smoke of... (full context)
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
...hundred whales washed ashore that year—a bad omen. Agnes, however, does not confirm Steina’s memory. Margrét comes in to fetch Steina, telling her to shovel the ashes from Agnes’s dress into... (full context)
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
A few ravens land on the stone fence nearby and Margrét chases them away. Tóti takes a breath and recites a rehearsed speech about how, if... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
...the first person as Agnes describes the rest of her day doing garden work alongside Margrét. They work silently, and Agnes thinks that she made a mistake in asking Tóti, who... (full context)
Chapter 4
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
The narrative jumps to when Tóti eventually arrives at Kornsá and Margrét opens the door to welcome him in. They make small talk and Margrét offers coffee... (full context)
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
...enters the room to get her knitting. Tóti implores Agnes to stay and talk as Margrét enters the room with the cup of coffee and bread with butter. Margrét gives Agnes... (full context)
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
...bristles, tells him that she has no family. Then Steina appears and tells Tóti that Margrét wants Agnes back at work. Agnes invites Tóti to come again the next day. (full context)
Chapter 5
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
The chapter then changes to third person narrative as it describes Margrét and her friend and neighbor Ingibjörg Pétursdóttir, stacking wood and talking about what it’s like... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
Ingibjörg then asks about Lauga and Steina. Margrét tells Ingibjörg that Steina thinks she has met Agnes before, and she worries that Steina... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...the chamber pot. Steina stays to keep Agnes company, but Agnes worries that Jón and Margrét will be mad at her. Steina asks Agnes what Tóti comes to talk about and... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
When Steina enters the house, Margrét asks where she has been, thinking, at first, that Agnes has hurt her. Then Steina... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
The perspective changes to Agnes’s first-person narrative. She is sitting on the bed waiting while Margrét, Jón, Lauga, and Steina talk in the other room. Agnes is nervous and keeps thinking... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Margrét, Lauga, Steina, and Kristín enter the badstofa to talk amongst themselves while Tóti and Agnes... (full context)
Chapter 7
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
The perspective changes to Agnes’s first person narrative as she helps Margrét prepare food for the harvest celebration. Steina and Lauga are away picking berries and moss.... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Ingibjörg and Róslín appear at the farm for the feast and they all come inside. Margrét introduces Róslín to Agnes. Róslín furiously asks Margrét why she invited them over with Agnes... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
Ingibjörg and Margrét quickly calm down, and Ingibjörg asks how she knows that. Agnes says that she learned... (full context)
Chapter 8
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
The chapter then returns to the third-person narrator, who describes Margrét lying awake in the badstofa at Kornsá. A few days before, Margrét had stayed behind... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
As it turned out, Róslín went into labor that day, and Margrét, Agnes, and Ingibjörg went to Róslín’s farm to help her. It quickly became clear that... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...everyone celebrated the round up of the sheep and the baby’s birth. The next day, Margrét spoke Agnes more than usual. Lauga had come in and complained about Agnes staring at... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Margrét stops thinking about Róslín’s delivery and finally gets out of bed. She looks out at... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...the first sheep, catching the blood in a pail. Agnes brings the pail inside to Margrét before returning outside. Agnes watches as Gudmundur skillfully skins the sheep. He reminds her of... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
...of Natan’s farm burning with the bodies in it. Agnes gets upset and goes outside. Margrét finds her, and instead of chastising her, she makes small talk with her. Then they... (full context)
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
...that she probably poisoned the whole barrel of meat. Steina doubts this and says that Margrét seems to be becoming fond of Agnes. Lauga, exasperated, asks Steina why she is always... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
...infuriates Lauga, who says that it is Agnes who has been interfering with their lives. Margrét tells Lauga to go back to her knitting. Agnes asks Lauga what Róslín told her... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...Tóti says that, unfortunately, their discussion cannot help but being overheard in such close quarters. Margrét says that it doesn’t make a difference, since anything the girls did not know before,... (full context)
Chapter 10
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...and Lauga, who are talking as they clean the badstofa. The sisters are bickering when Margrét comes in asks why Steina is upset. Lauga tells her that she heard a story... (full context)
Chapter 11
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
The third-person narrative then resumes as Margrét wakes up to the sound of Agnes crying. Margrét gets out of bed and lights... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Agnes makes room for Margrét to sit on the bed as Margrét has a coughing fit. Margrét asks what Agnes... (full context)
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
In the kitchen, Margrét heats milk and tells Agnes that her mother had a superstition that if there was... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Agnes apologizes for waking Margrét, who says she often wakes up anyway to check on the girls. Agnes is sorry... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...Agnes only went to Thórbjörg for a place to stay after Natan threw her out. Margrét asks Agnes how the farm burnt down and Agnes insists it was a kitchen fire.... (full context)
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
...part of a whale carcass and Fridrik began taking part of his share. Agnes tells Margrét that, after that incident, Natan spent even less time at home. When he was home,... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
...for permission to marry Sigga, and even offered him money, which Natan took. Agnes tells Margrét that Fridrik proposed to Sigga the next day. (full context)
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Agnes deviates from her story to tell Margrét how the sea near Natan’s farm was different than other places in Iceland. She remembers... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
The narrative then switches back to third person. Margrét, having apparently gone out to get more milk, returns to the kitchen and asks Agnes... (full context)
Class, Colonization, and Hierarchies of Power Theme Icon
The narrative, still in the third-person, moves back to describing Margrét and Agnes’s conversation. Margrét is shocked to hear that Natan threw Agnes out in the... (full context)
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...to sleep, during which time she thinks that Thórbjörg and Fridrik plotted to kill Natan. Margrét suggests that they should go to bed, but Agnes asks if she does not want... (full context)
Chapter 13
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
The narrative jumps to Tóti’s arrival at Kornsá. Margrét greets Tóti at the door and is surprised by his sickly appearance. Tóti asks to... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
...Tóti tells her six. Agnes asks if Tóti could beg Blöndal for an appeal, and Margrét backs Agnes up, saying the crime was not her fault. Tóti, surprised, asks if Agnes... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
...the third-person, describing how Tóti and Agnes both stay awake late, and then fall asleep. Margrét is still awake and knitting. She looks around the badstofa and notices that Lauga is... (full context)
Truth and Liberation Theme Icon
Women, Violence, and Innocence Theme Icon
Literacy, Language, and the Icelandic Landscape Theme Icon
Names, Superstition, and Christianity Theme Icon
The narrative returns to Agnes’s first person perspective. Margrét holds Agnes’s hand and tell her she is not a monster. Agnes says “they’re going... (full context)