My Family and Other Animals

by

Gerald Durrell

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Mother is the widowed head of the Durrell family. Her primary interests are cooking rich, exotic foods and gardening. She does her best to support her children in their respective interests and endeavors and steer the family on a reasonable path, though Gerry notes that this support is often mocked by his siblings. She's extremely concerned with keeping up appearances, such as when she purchases an extremely out of date swimming costume (as "women her age" can't be seen in modern swimsuits) and refuses to move villas on account of what people might think. However, despite this, she's also the only family member who truly encourages Gerry in his interest in the natural world. She generally accepts his pets and insists her other children do the same, though she does side with the rest of the family when the pets in question are dangerous. She treats all her children with an air of nonchalance and humors them good-naturedly, even when their interests or suggestions border on the absurd. She's extremely offended when a travel official refers to her family as a "circus and staff" during their return to England.

Mother Quotes in My Family and Other Animals

The My Family and Other Animals quotes below are all either spoken by Mother or refer to Mother. 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:
The Natural World Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of My Family and Other Animals published in 1956.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

"Didn't you notice?" she asked. "None of them had a bathroom."

Mr. Beeler stared at Mother with bulging eyes.

"But Madame," he wailed in genuine anguish, "what for you want a bathroom? Have you not got the sea?"

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Mr. Beeler (speaker)
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
Part 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

"He appears to have only one interest," said Larry bitterly, "and that's this awful urge to fill things with animal life. I don't think he ought to be encouraged in that. Life is fraught with danger as it is. I went to light a cigarette only this morning and a damn great bumblebee flew out of the box."

Related Characters: Larry Durrell (speaker), Gerry Durrell, Mother, Leslie Durrell, Margo Durrell
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 1: Conversation Quotes

"Don't be ridiculous. Whoever heard of moving into a larger house because you've invited some friends to stay?"

"What's the matter with the idea? It seems a perfectly sensible solution to me; after all, if you say there's no room here, the obvious thing to do is to move."

Related Characters: Larry Durrell (speaker), Mother (speaker), Gerry Durrell, Leslie Durrell, Margo Durrell
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

"A most insanitary procedure," said Mother, "more likely to spread disease than cure it. I dread to think what would have caught if we'd really kissed his feet."

"But I kissed his feet," said Margo, surprised.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Margo Durrell (speaker), Gerry Durrell
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

A pot of black paint was produced and laboriously, in rather trickly capitals, I traced her name along the side: THE BOOTLE-BUMTRINKET. There it was; not only an unusual name, but an aristocratically hyphenated one as well. In order to ease Mother's mind I had to promise that I would refer to the boat only as the Bootle in conversation with strangers.

Related Characters: Gerry Durrell (speaker), Larry Durrell, Mother, Leslie Durrell
Related Symbols: The Bootle-Bumtrinket
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 3, Chapter 14 Quotes

I was not, however, the least impressed by this last bit of information; I had met a number of people who professed to be interested in birds, and who had turned out (after careful questioning) to be charlatans who did not know what a hoopoe looked like...

Related Characters: Gerry Durrell (speaker), Mother, Kralefsky
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 3, Chapter 17 Quotes

Mother had, after considerable mental effort, managed to commit to memory two or three Greek words. This lack of vocabulary had a restrictive effect on her conversation at the best of times, but when she was faced with the ordeal of exchanging small talk with a murderer she promptly forgot all the Greek she knew.

Related Characters: Gerry Durrell (speaker), Mother, Kosti
Page Number: 251
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire My Family and Other Animals LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Mother Character Timeline in My Family and Other Animals

The timeline below shows where the character Mother appears in My Family and Other Animals. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: The Migration
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...Gerry is extremely congested; Margo's acne is worse than usual; Leslie is battling ear infections; Mother has a cold. Larry is the only one well, though he's irritated beyond belief. Gerry... (full context)
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Larry turns on Mother, asking why the family puts up with this horrible climate. He lists the family's ailments... (full context)
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Mother suggests he go ahead to set things up, and then the rest of the family... (full context)
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...Margo packs flowing garments and acne remedies; Leslie brings guns; Larry packs trunks of books; Mother brings cooking and gardening books; and Gerry brings books on natural history, a butterfly net,... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 1: The Unsuspected Isle
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...quickly and with a disdainful expression on his face, followed by Gerry, Leslie, Margo, and Mother, who looks harried and annoyed. Roger (the dog) drags Mother to a lamppost to relieve... (full context)
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...grabs the driver's whip and cracks it at the dogs. He hits Leslie and then Mother's hat, and Mother tells Larry to be careful. (full context)
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...Larry seems to enjoy himself as he waves the whip at the street dogs while Mother, Leslie, Gerry, and Margo haul Roger, still snarling, into the hotel. When they're all inside,... (full context)
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...congregate downstairs for dinner a while later. Larry is thrilled with Corfu thus far, but Mother tries to seem noncommittal. Leslie is annoyed, as the manager couldn't bring him toilet paper.... (full context)
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It doesn't help Mother's peace of mind that all afternoon, the family can watch funeral processions to the nearby... (full context)
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Mr. Beeler, the hotel guide, drives Mother and the Durrell children around the island the next day to look at multiple villas.... (full context)
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...that it was terrifying, but the drivers' altercation was actually mild by Greek standards. As Mother becomes more flustered and Leslie angrier, a loud voice, speaking English, booms over the crowd.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2: The Strawberry-Pink Villa
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Spiro is especially adept at dealing with government officials. When he learns that Mother's boxes of linen and other things were confiscated at customs, he angrily promises to "fix... (full context)
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...he owned the islands. He becomes an integral part of the family, arranging outings, helping Mother barter, and reporting to her if he sees anything amiss with her children. Mother adores... (full context)
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...bathing suit and sunbathing often, which earns her a following of local boys. She brushes Mother off when Mother tries to point out that this might become a problem. Larry, meanwhile,... (full context)
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...days practicing shooting his revolvers at tin cans from his bedroom window, though Larry and Mother eventually convince him to move this practice away from the house. Mother settles in, makes... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3: The Rose-Beetle Man
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...the family eats breakfast outside under the tangerine trees. By the end of the meal Mother, Larry, Leslie, and Margo begin arguing about what each is going to do that day.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4: A Bushel of Learning
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Not long after the family moves into the pink villa, Mother decides it's time for Gerry to receive education. The entire family offers opinions as to... (full context)
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Larry suggests that one of his friends, George, should teach Gerry, and this idea delights Mother. Gerry decides to head outside to escape the "imminent danger of being educated," though he... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6: The Sweet Spring
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...a barrel of wine, and spends his evenings singing love songs and drinking. One evening, Mother and Larry spend the evening home together and when Gerry, Margo, and Leslie return, they... (full context)
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Mother spends most of her time cultivating vegetables and cooking delightful meals, and Larry develops indigestion.... (full context)
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When Mother approaches Margo about the Turk and suggests he come for tea, Margo is delighted. Mother... (full context)
Part 1: Conversation
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...have not occurred to him that the villa is barely big enough for the family. Mother is worried about having "highbrow" guests around, and suggests that Larry inform the local hotel... (full context)
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Larry and Mother continue their argument, which intensifies when Larry admits that they may end up hosting seven... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7: The Daffodil-Yellow Villa
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...It overlooks the sea and is surrounded by groves of olive, lemon, and orange trees. Mother soon hires the gardener's wife, Lugaretzia, to help at the villa. Lugaretzia proves to be... (full context)
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The furniture that came with the villa is old and promptly begins falling apart. Finally, Mother decides that they need to buy new furniture to prepare for Larry's guests. The next... (full context)
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Mother, Margo, and Gerry are soon caught up in the crowd, unable to escape. Margo ends... (full context)
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When they finally meet outside the church, Mother exclaims over how unsanitary it is for everyone in the village to kiss the same... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8: The Tortoise Hills
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...he leaves and three artists, Jonquil, Durant, and Michael take his place. Jonquil promptly informs Mother that she's come to work, not have a holiday, and spends the entire visit sleeping... (full context)
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...off to gain some relief from the heat, much to Gerry's delight. She explains to Mother that she just recovered from erysipelas (a bacterial skin infection) and lost all her hair.... (full context)
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...she asks for his advice on her disease. The two discuss treatment options, which incenses Mother—she believes such conversation isn't appropriate for teatime. Later, Theodore explains Melanie's affliction. Mother guiltily is... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9: The World in a Wall
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...outside and releases her onto the wall. Larry is terrified of matchboxes after this, and Mother decides that it's time for Gerry to receive more education. She engages the Belgian consul... (full context)
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The Belgian consul believes that Mother speaks French and tries to engage her in conversation whenever he sees her. She does... (full context)
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...and watching it land is something that Theodore greatly enjoys. When they hear it coming, Mother tortures Theodore for a few minutes before inviting him to the attic to watch. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10: The Pageant of Fireflies
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Mother envies her children their swims, though she insists she's too old when they invite her... (full context)
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...into the Sea Cow and head down to the bay. When they reach the bay, Mother wades into the water. As she does, Roger becomes excited and attacks her costume by... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11: The Enchanted Archipelago
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...first. Gerry decides to call it Bootle just when Larry suggests Bumtrinket. Thus, much to Mother's dismay, the boat becomes the Bootle-Bumtrinket. (full context)
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Margo, Peter, Larry, and Leslie carry the Bootle-Bumtrinket to the jetty, where Gerry and Mother open a bottle of wine in celebration. Finally, the boat bearers toss the boat into... (full context)
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...made quite the mess. Larry suggests the puppies be named Widdle and Puke and though Mother protests, the names stick. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12: The Woodcock Winter
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When fall arrives, Gerry is delighted that Peter isn't doing much tutoring. Mother insists that Peter and Margo are much too fond of each other. The family agrees... (full context)
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...string. He neglects to tell the family about this. One night, the guns go off. Mother fears that Margo committed suicide, while Margo believes that Leslie is murdering Peter. In the... (full context)
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...in the sun. Gerry is annoyed beyond belief that Margo took his boat and tells Mother about it. A storm begins to blow in, and Mother and Lugaretzia hang out of... (full context)
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...family with tales of the hunt upon his return, though they take little notice until Mother decides to inspect a boar one day. (full context)
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Mother is concerned about how large the boar is, though Leslie assures her there's little danger... (full context)
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...limps home, he's convinced the family plotted to embarrass or kill him. He snaps at Mother when she asks if he fell in, and he takes a bottle of brandy upstairs... (full context)
Part 2: Conversation
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...poring over their mail. Everyone receives correspondence and catalogues according to their interests. One day, Mother reads a letter from Great-Aunt Hermione out loud. It tells of her medical woes and... (full context)
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Larry, Mother, Leslie, and Margo argue over what to do about Hermione's request. They suggest outlandish ideas... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 13: The Snow-White Villa
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...he races back to the villa with one in each hand and shows them to Mother and Spiro. Spiro promptly turns green and vomits outside, while Mother assures Gerry that the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 14: The Talking Flowers
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Gerry learns that Mother found another tutor, a man named Kralefsky. She informs Gerry that Kralefsky loves birds, which... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 15: The Cyclamen Woods
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...the family is in no mood to help him name the new additions. Margo and Mother are curious, while Leslie, Larry, and Spiro declare that the babies are disgusting. Leslie cautions... (full context)
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...and know which rooms are most interesting and which rooms are uninteresting to visit, like Mother and Margo's. They're fascinated by Larry's bedroom because he forbids them from entering. Because of... (full context)
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...to survey the damage. Larry angrily yells at all of them. He's especially incensed when Mother reminds him that the birds don't understand they did anything wrong, a suggestion he sees... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 16: The Lake of Lilies
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...often converse with Roger and play tricks on Widdle and Puke. They're perplexed, however, when Mother comes home with a strange looking dog. (full context)
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...she arrives, everyone insults her strange appearance, name, and sex. Larry is especially vicious, but Mother decides to keep Dodo anyway. The family soon discovers that Dodo's hip dislocates with little... (full context)
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Dodo also proves fairly unintelligent. She becomes extremely possessive of Mother, even following Mother across the room to fetch a book or a cigarette. She won't... (full context)
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...puppy proves a problem for Dodo, as she's torn between sitting with it and following Mother. Dodo tries to carry her puppy everywhere and, finally, Mother engages the maid's daughter Sophia... (full context)
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...spend time often. They plan on heading up when the lilies are in bloom, and Mother insists they must go by boat so that Dodo doesn't vomit in the car. Leslie... (full context)
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The family attaches the Bootle-Bumtrinket to the Sea Cow to tow it, and Mother, Theodore, Sophia, and the dogs ride behind. This, however, is horrible for those passengers: the... (full context)
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...lavish affair. A robin entertains the family by singing and puffing out his chest, which Mother finds extremely charming. Theodore suggests the robin looked like an opera singer and begins a... (full context)
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...finally, when the moon is high, everyone piles back into the boats to head home. Mother declares that the lake is so beautiful, she'd like to be buried there. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 17: The Chessboard Fields
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Gerry puts Alecko on the floor of the living room and is annoyed when Mother and Margo think that Alecko is an eagle. Alecko ferociously makes noise as Gerry tries... (full context)
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...he got Alecko and leaves out that he also captured snakes, as Leslie hates snakes. Mother is aghast that Kosti is a convict and killed his wife, but Leslie explains that... (full context)
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Gerry invites Kosti for tea, and Mother forgets the few Greek words she knows in his presence. Gerry translates for them as... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 18: An Entertainment with Animals
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...the day before the party, Spiro conspiratorially tells Gerry to come with when he takes Mother to the hairdresser's and to bring a container. That night, Spiro drops off Mother and... (full context)
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On the morning of the party, Mother is annoyed to discover that Dodo is in season. She hires a peasant girl to... (full context)
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...the tin containing the snakes into the sun. They look almost dead. He races to Mother and asks to put the snakes in the bathtub, and she agrees as long as... (full context)
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...got into a bottle of beer. They act drunk and unbalanced as Gerry catches them. Mother walks in as Gerry stands with the birds, but she only tells Gerry to be... (full context)
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...groves, carrying a bag full of game. He goes into the house to bathe and Mother and Dodo come out to socialize. Mother waves a stick at the male dogs assembled... (full context)
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...know the Durrells follow the exchange with interest; the others aren't sure what to do. Mother soothes Leslie and explains the snakes had sunstroke, and Larry makes sure to insert himself... (full context)
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...He throws it over the dogs and they all race outside in terror and surprise. Mother waves everyone outside for dinner and the party continues. (full context)
Part 3: The Return
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Soon after, Kralefsky informs Mother that he can't teach Gerry anything else, so Gerry will need to continue his studies... (full context)
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...all the way back to England. In Switzerland, an unsmiling official checks passports and hands Mother a slip of paper. Mother is indignant: the form asked for a description of passengers,... (full context)