The Gardener

by

Rudyard Kipling

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Mrs. Scarsworth Character Analysis

Mrs. Scarsworth is a woman who Helen meets on the train to Hagenzeele when she is on her way to visit Michael’s grave. Mrs. Scarsworth tells Helen that she is traveling to the cemetery for the ninth time, as she takes commissions from grieving families who cannot make the journey themselves and photographs the graves of their loved ones for them. At first Helen is horrified by this seemingly callous approach to death. Mrs. Scarsworth is talkative and outgoing and attempts to ingratiate herself to Helen. Even though Helen finds the woman overbearing and bothersome, the reader learns that Mrs. Scarsworth and Helen are actually quite similar. Mrs. Scarsworth has had to construct this elaborate story about commissions to cover her real motives for visiting the graveyard so often—she was in love with a man who has been killed in the war. Their relationship was not respectable, because Mrs. Scarsworth is married to someone else, and she has had to keep it a secret and cannot openly grieve or visit his grave. Her confession to Helen is a desperate attempt to communicate her pain and to be understood; the reader gains the impression that Mrs. Scarsworth has been extremely controlled in her public presentation of herself, just like Helen. Unlike Helen, though, Mrs. Scarsworth has reached her breaking point and is overcome by the need to show her real feelings, even if this confession risks her losing her outward appearance of respectability. Shrewdly, Mrs. Scarsworth chooses a stranger, Helen, to confess to, as this will not have any consequences in her everyday life. Kipling implies that, like Helen, Mrs. Scarsworth is a victim of a restrictive society that expects unrealistic levels of emotional control and propriety from people.

Mrs. Scarsworth Quotes in The Gardener

The The Gardener quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Scarsworth or refer to Mrs. Scarsworth. 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:
Propriety, Performance, and Secrecy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Borzoi edition of The Gardener published in 1994.
The Gardener Quotes

Helen was grateful, but when they reached the hotel Mrs. Scarsworth […] insisted on dining at the same table with her and, after the meal […] took Helen through her “commissions” with biographies of the dead, where she happened to know them, and sketches of their next of kin. Helen endured this till nearly half-past nine, ere she fled to her room. Almost at once there was a knock on the door and Mrs. Scarsworth entered; her hands, holding the dreadful list, clasped before her.

Related Characters: Helen Turrell, Mrs. Scarsworth
Page Number: 835
Explanation and Analysis:

Because I’m so tired of lying […] year in and year out. When I don’t tell lies I’ve got to act ‘em and I’ve got to think ‘em, always. You don’t know what that means. He was everything to me that he oughtn’t have been—the only real thing—the only thing that happened to me in all my life; and I’ve had to pretend he wasn’t. I’ve had to watch every word, and think out what lie I’d tell next, for years and years!

Related Characters: Mrs. Scarsworth (speaker), Helen Turrell, Michael Turrell
Page Number: 836
Explanation and Analysis:

“Lieutenant Michael Turrell—my nephew,” said Helen slowly and word for word, as she had many thousands of times in her life. The man lifted his eyes and looked at her with infinite compassion before he turned from the fresh-sown toward the naked black crosses. “Come with me,” he said, “and I will show you where your son lies.”

Related Characters: Helen Turrell (speaker), Michael Turrell, Mrs. Scarsworth
Related Symbols: The Gardener
Page Number: 838
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Gardener PDF

Mrs. Scarsworth Character Timeline in The Gardener

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Scarsworth appears in The Gardener. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Gardener
Propriety, Performance, and Secrecy Theme Icon
World War I Theme Icon
...to find out about the train to Hagenzeele and there is joined by an English-woman, Mrs. Scarsworth , who is also travelling to the war cemeteries. Waiting for the train, the two... (full context)
Propriety, Performance, and Secrecy Theme Icon
World War I Theme Icon
Helen and Mrs. Scarsworth get into a train carriage together, Helen “shivering” a little at Mrs. Scarsworth’s descriptions of... (full context)
Propriety, Performance, and Secrecy Theme Icon
Christianity and Compassion Theme Icon
 Helen is “grateful” when they arrive at the hotel, but Mrs. Scarsworth “insists” on sitting with her at dinner and showing her photographs of her commissions. Helen... (full context)
Propriety, Performance, and Secrecy Theme Icon
Christianity and Compassion Theme Icon
Shocked, Helen asks Mrs. Scarsworth why she is telling her this. Mrs. Scarsworth cries that she is exhausted from constantly... (full context)
Propriety, Performance, and Secrecy Theme Icon
Christianity and Compassion Theme Icon
World War I Theme Icon
The next day, Mrs. Scarsworth leaves the hotel early and Helen travels to the cemetery alone. When she arrives however,... (full context)