Cat’s Eye

by

Margaret Atwood

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Cat’s Eye can help.

Mrs. Smeath Character Analysis

Grace Smeath’s mother, a very religious and strict woman whom Elaine detests. Mrs. Smeath is extremely judgmental and narcissistic. She has big bones, and wears steel-rimmed glasses and print housedresses. She smiles, but she never laughs. She also makes it her mission to “save” Elaine and bring her to church, but she always seems to judge her for coming from a different background and not knowing which hats to wear or whether she should say grace at dinner. Ultimately, she becomes a symbol of Elaine’s rejection of religion and religious convention—when she becomes a painter, Elaine paints several portraits of Mrs. Smeath in vengeance for her cruelty and judgmental attitude in Elaine’s childhood.
Get the entire Cat’s Eye LitChart as a printable PDF.
Cat’s Eye PDF

Mrs. Smeath Character Timeline in Cat’s Eye

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Smeath appears in Cat’s Eye. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part Three: Empire Bloomers
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
...inviting Elaine over without Carol, which she says is because of her mother’s bad heart. Mrs. Smeath has to rest every day because of her heart, and she is controlling, sturdy, and... (full context)
Part Four: Deadly Nightshade
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
...her ears or killed herself. She sees a painting she did two decades before of Mrs. Smeath in egg tempera wearing nothing by a flowered bib apron, reclining on the sofa rising... (full context)
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
...has a hard time imagining any of their mothers permitting this to happen, especially not Mrs. Smeath . (full context)
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
War vs. Environmental Catastrophe  Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
Elaine goes to the cellar at Grace’s house and sees Mrs. Smeath peeling potatoes; Mrs. Smeath invites her to come to church with the family. When she... (full context)
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
...that she doesn’t have a hat, so she has to borrow a hat for church. Mrs. Smeath ’s sister, whom they call Aunt Mildred, comes along with them, and they drive through... (full context)
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
...squash. Elaine starts eating before grace because she does not know what it is, which Mrs. Smeath chides her for. After dinner, Grace and Elaine sit on the velvet chesterfield in the... (full context)
Part Five: Wringer
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
Elaine still goes to church on Sundays with the Smeaths, because Mrs. Smeath seems to enjoy seeing herself as a charitable person, though she does not appear particularly... (full context)
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
...At the dinner table, Mr. Smeath makes a joke about farting that Elaine doesn’t understand. Mrs. Smeath chastises him, but he asks Elaine if she found it funny; she says that she... (full context)
Part Seven: Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
One time when she goes to dinner at the Smeaths’ after church, Elaine overhears Mrs. Smeath and Aunt Mildred talking about her. They insult her and her family, and make it... (full context)
Part Nine: Leprosy
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
...three pictures, one of her head, and two of paintings—the first painting was one of Mrs. Smeath , bare-naked and flying in the air with Mr. Smeath attached to her back like... (full context)
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
They also break into the cemetery and smoke cigarettes. Elaine tells lies about Mrs. Smeath , claiming that she is a vampire and that Elaine herself is one too. Cordelia... (full context)
Part Eleven: Falling Women
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
...biting her fingers again, and feels like her body is full of time. She paints Mrs. Smeath numerous times. When she looks at the images of Mrs. Smeath, Elaine has the sense... (full context)
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Identity and Conflict Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
Many of the paintings that Elaine chose for the opening are of Mrs. Smeath , portrayed in one lying on the sofa wrapped in an afghan with a rubber... (full context)
Part Fourteen: Unified Field Theory
Art, Science, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Cruelty Theme Icon
Time and Memory Theme Icon
...the early paintings characterized by Charna as female symbolism, the paintings of Jon and Josef, Mrs. Smeath . She tries to see her childhood self in Mrs. Smeath’s eyes, and recognizes the... (full context)