The Golden Age

by

Joan London

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Ida Gold Character Analysis

Frank’s mother and Meyer’s wife. The daughter of an affluent Hungarian Jewish family, Ida was once a lauded and diligent pianist looking forward to a brilliant career. The onset of the Holocaust, however, annihilated her family and put an end to her life as an urbane young mother and musician. While Ida often appears as a flustered and anxious mother—for example, chain-smoking and finding fault with the hospital staff—it’s her ingenuity and persistence that safeguarded Frank throughout the Holocaust and scraped together the food packages that kept Meyer from starving in his forced labor camp. Ida loves Frank fiercely and, her general faith in humanity having been destroyed by the war, lives mostly for him. However, she also feels more herself when she’s alone. Although neither of them realizes it, Ida’s feelings are quite similar to Frank’s simultaneous desire for intimacy and distance from his mother. Ida also vacillates between snobbery (she calls their Italian neighbors “Tuscan peasants” and turns up her nose at Perth’s provincial conventionality) and humility (as a poor immigrant, she works uncomplainingly as a milliner’s assistant to build a new life in Australia). Ida’s recital at the Golden Age shows that both these attributes stem from the same source: her pride in her talent as a pianist and her reverence for music as a discipline. Despite the simple venue and amateur audience, Ida’s grave and unstinting performance at the Golden Age exonerates her from any hints of pretension while highlighting the strong sense of self, derived from her craft, that has enabled her to face nearly insurmountable challenges.

Ida Gold Quotes in The Golden Age

The The Golden Age quotes below are all either spoken by Ida Gold or refer to Ida Gold. 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:
Survival Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Europa edition of The Golden Age published in 2014.
6. The Poet Quotes

He felt her reverence for music and literature was theatrical, deliberate, and set them even more apart from everyone else.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold, Sullivan Backhouse
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Why do I refuse it? he thought, wheeling off. His parents, he knew, regarded his lost legs as one more tragedy they had to bear. I refuse to be their only light. I want to be my own reason for living.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold, Meyer Gold, Sullivan Backhouse
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
7. The Trains Quotes

Talent was not enough, Julia used to say, you must find the grip, the hunger, the small, determined child inside you. You must have a certain ruthlessness to win, as if by right. In the hierarchy of talent, you are a born aristocrat […]

Related Characters: Ida Gold (speaker), Frank Gold, Julia Marai
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

It was the beginning of himself. Up until then he hadn’t really felt sad or frightened, his mother had done that for him. As long as she was there, he didn’t have to fear. He was part of her, and like a mother cat she had attended to every part of him.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Sometimes his parents forgot themselves over drinks with Hungarian friends and spoke of the country they once knew […] then they fell silent. They’d been guests, after all, in that country. As they were guests in this one.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold, Meyer Gold
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
8. The First Time Frank Saw Elsa Quotes

Over and over again, Frank thought, he, Meyer and Ida had been forced to live within breathing distance of strangers, like animals in a burrow. Knowing about their underclothes, the smells and habits of their bodies. The little meannesses, the same old jokes, the sulks and temper flurries […]

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold, Meyer Gold
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
15. Christmas Quotes

Frank felt it as a relief. When his mother was at the piano she was distant from him. For once she took her eyes off him […] Somehow he knew that what she did was very good. In this role he had respect for her, and gratitude. It seemed to justify everything, their foreignness, their victimhood in the other country. It brought honor to them.

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

She was startled by Ida’s ease and precision. Her concentration, her accuracy, reminded Olive of the skills that were her personal exultation, of a good surgeon at work, or nurses laying out a body. Her own deftness and judgment.

Related Characters: Sister Penny (speaker), Ida Gold
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:
22. The Concert Quotes

She played very fast, bare-armed like a workman, with the conviction of one who must finish a job. The dress enthralled them, its blue-black shining folds, and Ida’s strong white arms, her black hair in a roll, her faintly slanted Hungarian eyes were inexpressibly exotic. They knew that wherever she came from, she must have been famous there.

Related Characters: Ida Gold
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

Watching her play, Frank was moved. He saw her strength, her vast determination. He remembered her fury when he was in the hospital. “You are going to get strong! You are going to walk […] you want to know why? They take the weak ones first.”

Related Characters: Frank Gold (speaker), Ida Gold
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:
29. The Call Quotes

Ida stood still. It felt like the time when the tanks rolled in, and you thought, This can’t be happening. Everything becomes provisional. She walked straight out of the house to the phone box on the corner and rang Margaret Briggs.

Related Characters: Ida Gold (speaker), Frank Gold
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Golden Age LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Age PDF

Ida Gold Character Timeline in The Golden Age

The timeline below shows where the character Ida Gold appears in The Golden Age. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Light
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...any adults, Frank rolls outside and produces a cigarette that he stole from his mother, Ida, the last time she visited. For a moment he feels bad, thinking of his mother... (full context)
2. The Golden Age
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...are no longer ill but learning to function again in the world. The parents (even Ida Gold, who’s very picky and known to the staff as Princess Ida) are happy with... (full context)
4. Cockatoos
Survival Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
...eating dinner, cockatoos fly over the hospital; the children know they’re signaling rain. Frank’s parents, Ida and Meyer Gold, also hear the birds from their house in North Perth. Meyer is... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
...had hoped to go to America, but they received a sponsorship from Western Australia instead. Ida can’t stop thinking of their immigration as ill-fated and views everything as evidence for this... (full context)
Vocation Theme Icon
Meyer encourages Ida to play the piano; they in fact chose their current house because the previous owner... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Since she won’t play, Meyer says she should go to bed, but Ida knows that when she’s tired her nightmares are worse, so she pours herself another glass... (full context)
5. Frank’s Vocation
Survival Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
Frank has always suspected he had a vocation, although he inherited neither Ida’s musical ability nor Meyer’s handiness. Now he knows he’s a poet, and this conviction makes... (full context)
6. The Poet
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
...about being in the hospital. Frank likes this approach to art because it’s different from Ida’s “theatrical [and] deliberate” reverence for music, which he feels sets his family apart from other... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
...family. He refused to go to school because of a terrible headache, then fought with Ida who said she would lose her new job if she stayed home to take care... (full context)
7. The Trains
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...during the war. His tone is straightforward as he remembers hurrying through the streets with Ida at dusk. The night before, thirty people in the apartment below theirs, including children he’d... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Ida is taking Frank to her piano teacher, Julia Marai, and has dressed him as a... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...with her companion, Hedwiga, in a small apartment on the other side of the river. Ida even carries Frank up the stairs, and he feels uneasy because she’s being too considerate.... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...woman with a formal voice, but she assures Frank he can have his pants back. Ida kisses Frank and tells him to behave well, then quickly leaves. Frank understands that she... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Ida had asked Julia to hide Frank weeks before, though she worried that she was demanding... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Strength, Physicality, and Femininity Theme Icon
Having left Frank, Ida hurries back across the river, searching for the “fighting core of survival, of self-love” which... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
Julia always gives Ida strength. As a teacher, Julia always insisted that beyond her talent Ida had to cultivate... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Ida hoped to have a child who looked like Meyer, but Frank turned out to be... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
On her way home, Ida passes the Gellért hotel, where she used to play piano in the early years of... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Ida is still astonished that a city she’s loved her whole life, and always felt to... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...if he remembers the walk to Julia’s apartment, or if he only knows it from Ida’s stories. But he does remember his life in hiding. His first separation from Ida marks... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
...tries to behave well and be quiet. He spends a lot of time watching for Ida at the window and finds he can’t remember what her face looks like. He also... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
In Australia in the present, Ida and Meyer and their Hungarian friends sometimes reminisce about the country they once loved and... (full context)
8. The First Time Frank Saw Elsa
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
On Frank’s first Sunday at the Golden Age, Ida and Meyer come to visit. They befriend the parents of Fabio, one of the babies,... (full context)
13. Meyer Walks Home
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
As the train pulls into the station, Meyer remembers walking on the beach with Ida and Frank shortly after their arrival in Australia. Ida and Frank ran in the waves... (full context)
15. Christmas
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Most of the children go home for Christmas, but Meyer and Ida volunteer to serve lunch to those staying at the Golden Age so the nurses can... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
...Christmas, the lunch goes off well. Meyer entertains everyone by exaggerating his own accent and Ida plays Christmas carols on the piano. Meyer finds this new and unusual celebration strange, but... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
...to see Meyer. She feels that he’s much like here and that “nothing escapes him.” Ida plays Mozart before bed to general delight. Frank is relieved to see his mother on... (full context)
Vocation Theme Icon
Sister Penny, who rarely rests or listens to music, is struck by Ida’s excellence, which reminds her of her own instinctive skills as a nurse. She immediately decides... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
When Meyer and Ida return home, Ida asks what he thinks of Sister Penny. Meyer equivocates, not wanting to... (full context)
18. A Long Cool Drink
Survival Theme Icon
Strength, Physicality, and Femininity Theme Icon
...Sister Penny is struck by the sense that he’s lost a lot. She’s reminded of Ida, whose face is “sharpened” by grief and fear. (full context)
20. The Queen
Survival Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Ida is practicing frantically for the concert she’s agreed to give at the Golden Age, as... (full context)
21. Ida and Meyer
Survival Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
Meyer comes home on the afternoon of the concert to hear Ida practicing. He’s sweating in his work clothes, but the music arrests him immediately. After a... (full context)
Vocation Theme Icon
Meyer enters the living room to see a sweaty Ida playing in only her slip, her hair messy and untied. She tells Meyer that she’s... (full context)
22. The Concert
Vocation Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
When she arrives at the Golden Age, Ida can see that they’ve tried hard to create a concert venue, setting up a spotlight,... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
...of patients and staff have come. Meyer is setting out soft drinks donated by Bickford’s. Ida is comforted and unsettled to know that only Frank and Meyer know enough about music... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Ida sees Frank sitting in the front row next to Elsa. He’s talking rapidly and Ida... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Sister Penny introduces Ida, mispronouncing the names of all her awards but saying sincerely how honored she feels that... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
Ida lowers her fingers onto the keyboard, reminding Sister Penny of a surgeon beginning his work.... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
When Ida finishes, the audience is silent and then applauds wholeheartedly. She looks at Frank and they... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
Rodney Bennet blusteringly informs Ida that her performance was “first-class” and wonders if she would play for a cocktail party... (full context)
27. Poetry
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Meyer and Ida aren’t angry with Frank; they’re amused by his expulsion, which they see as an example... (full context)
Vocation Theme Icon
...but he’s afraid they won’t like his work or understand his confidence in his vocation. Ida especially, having lost her career as an artist, wants Frank to study something practical, like... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
At night, Ida and Meyer worry over Frank. Ida says she hears him talking to himself in the... (full context)
29. The Call
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
One day, Ida comes home to find Frank in the backyard reading The Waste Land. He says he’s... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Ida is floored by this obvious display of depression. She feels the same horror and unreality... (full context)
30. The Separation
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
One day the telephone rings. When Margaret picks up, Ida Gold is on the other end. After a quick conversation, she hangs up and informs... (full context)
31. The Visit
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...sees that Elsa feels at home here and “his stomach clench[es] suddenly at their distance.” Ida feels uncomfortable in the cluttered house and smiles formally; coupled with the fact that she’s... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Ida thinks it’s strange that Margaret serves scones, which she thinks of as breakfast food, and... (full context)