The Daughters of the Late Colonel

by

Katherine Mansfield

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Constantia, Josephine, and Benny’s Mother/The Colonel’s wife Character Analysis

The colonel’s wife died when Constantia and Josephine were very young, likely when the family lived in Ceylon for the colonel’s work. As a child, Josephine told Constantia that their mother was killed by a snake (prompted by an image of their mother in a snake-like “feather boa” and “earrings shaped like tiny pagodas” that hung over the piano in their apartment). It is unclear whether this is true, but their mother’s absence has clearly left a gap in Josephine and Constantia’s life, since they lack maternal support; Josephine wonders whether she and Constantia would have married if their mother had lived.

Constantia, Josephine, and Benny’s Mother/The Colonel’s wife Quotes in The Daughters of the Late Colonel

The The Daughters of the Late Colonel quotes below are all either spoken by Constantia, Josephine, and Benny’s Mother/The Colonel’s wife or refer to Constantia, Josephine, and Benny’s Mother/The Colonel’s wife . 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:
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Daughters of the Late Colonel published in 1991.
The Daughters of the Late Colonel Quotes

If mother had lived, might they have married? But there had been nobody for them to marry. There had been father’s Anglo-Indian friends before he quarreled with them. But after that she and Constantia never met a single man except clergymen. How did one meet men? Or even if they’d met them, how could they have got to know men well enough to be more than strangers? One read of people having adventures, being followed, and so on. But nobody had ever followed Constantia and her.

Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:
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Constantia, Josephine, and Benny’s Mother/The Colonel’s wife Character Timeline in The Daughters of the Late Colonel

The timeline below shows where the character Constantia, Josephine, and Benny’s Mother/The Colonel’s wife appears in The Daughters of the Late Colonel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Daughters of the Late Colonel
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Constantia and Josephine have had one of the busiest weeks of their lives, and when they lie down... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Josephine almost laughs thinking of the top-hat on the porter’s head. The last time she laughed... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Constantia wonders if they should have their dressing-gowns dyed black to display their mourning. Josephine finds this idea ridiculous, but Constantia thinks it wouldn’t seem right to wear black outside... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Family, Instability, and Fragmentation Theme Icon
...the notices tomorrow to get them delivered to Ceylon. They had had twenty-three letters, and Josephine has replied to all of them, crying each time after writing “We miss our dear... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Constantia hears what she thinks is a mouse, but Josephine disagrees, declaring that it can’t be a mouse since there aren’t any crumbs in their... (full context)
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
...is staying with the sisters, since they asked her to after the doctor had gone. Josephine suggested that Nurse Andrews stay, though she worries that she might expect to be paid.... (full context)
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
...evening, the nurse discusses her time with Lady Tukes, who owned a silver butter dispenser. Josephine says that she thinks things like that are extravagant and distracts herself from Nurse Andrews... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
...family, arrives the day their father dies and asks if the end had been peaceful. Josephine says it had been, but both she and Constantia know that his “eye” hadn’t been... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
...be helpful to the sisters and offers Communion to them as a comfort. Constantia and Josephine are terrified by this idea, since they feel that their drawing-room isn’t suited to hosting... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Neither Josephine nor Constantia can believe that their father is never coming back. Josephine felt terrified when... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Josephine and Constantia decide to try to organize their father’s belongings in his room. While their... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Family, Instability, and Fragmentation Theme Icon
Josephine insists that they have to get it done today and asks Constantia why she keeps... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
...they don’t need a jug; Kate can pour the water straight out of the kettle. Josephine wonders what they should send of their father’s to Benny, but she notes that it’s... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Josephine decides that their father’s watch would be the most apposite gift, though Constantia is surprised... (full context)
Family, Instability, and Fragmentation Theme Icon
Josephine thinks of Cyril and wonders whether it wouldn’t be more appropriate for the only grandson... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Family, Instability, and Fragmentation Theme Icon
The sisters recall Cyril’s last visit. Josephine tells Cyril not to be frightened of eating their cakes, since she and Constantia bought... (full context)
Family, Instability, and Fragmentation Theme Icon
Josephine offers Cyril a meringue, noting that Cyril’s father was fond of them. Constantia asks if... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Josephine asks Cyril to come and see his grandfather. Cyril remarks that he thinks their clock... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Family, Instability, and Fragmentation Theme Icon
...he has to say. Cyril feels like an “imbecile” as he smiles at his grandfather. Josephine remarks that Cyril has said that Benny is still fond of meringues. The colonel doesn’t... (full context)
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Josephine decides to send Cyril the watch. She and Constantia are interrupted by Kate, who asks... (full context)
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Josephine and Constantia retreat into the drawing-room to discuss Kate. Josephine asks Constantia whether they should... (full context)
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Josephine remarks that she isn’t sure whether to trust Kate or not, and Constantia agrees. It’s... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Josephine remarks that they can’t postpone deciding to fire Kate or not, but at that moment,... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Family, Instability, and Fragmentation Theme Icon
...if he was keeping a secret. She cannot figure out what this secret might be. Josephine looks at the sunlight reflected on the photograph of her mother above the piano, dressed... (full context)
Patriarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Josephine hears sparrows on the window-ledge, but their crying sounds seem to be within her instead... (full context)
Ambivalence and Dependency Theme Icon
Constantia approaches Josephine and tries to say something about the future, but Josephine interrupts her. They both stop... (full context)