Small Island

Small Island

by

Andrea Levy

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Small Island can help.

Martha Roberts/Miss Ma Character Analysis

Philip Roberts’ wife and Hortense’s surrogate mother. Hortense calls her “Miss Ma,” which shows that their relationship is entirely formal, only a parody of real motherhood. Martha openly prefers her biological son, Michael, to Hortense, and goes out of her way to make Hortense feel like she doesn’t really belong in the family.
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Martha Roberts/Miss Ma Character Timeline in Small Island

The timeline below shows where the character Martha Roberts/Miss Ma appears in Small Island. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: Hortense
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
...of his wealth, he’s respected throughout the neighborhood as an adjudicator of disputes. His wife, Martha, is known for her unusually light grey eyes. Hortense is told to call her Miss... (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
...them run around in fright. Hortense carefully carries a new egg in the house, but Miss Ma gives the credit to Michael and thanks him, while scolding Hortense to stay out of... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
...which often turns into a sermon on his own strict religious beliefs. While they eat, Miss Ma lectures the children on proper table manners. (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
...the table and to contradict his ideas. He storms out of the room, followed by Miss Ma . For her part, Hortense decides she’s completely in love with Michael. (full context)
Redemption Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
By the time Hortense returns home, the entire town is gossiping about the incipient scandal. Miss Ma is in tears at the thought that Michael has been “committing a mortal sin” with... (full context)
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
Displacement and Belonging Theme Icon
...may have murdered Mr. Ryder. When Hortense returns home three days later, Michael is gone. Miss Ma tells Hortense tersely that he’s gone to England to join the Royal Air Force (RAF).... (full context)
Chapter 4: Hortense
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Race and Prejudice Theme Icon
...teacher-training college in Kingston, catching a bumpy ride in the newspaper’s van. Mr. Philip and Miss Ma are completely indifferent to her departure; they seem to have forgotten that her father is... (full context)
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon
...in public or consorting with a lunatic. However, Miss Morgan gives her a letter from Miss Ma and gently informs her that Michael’s plane has been lost in England. At first, Hortense... (full context)