The Golden Age

by

Joan London

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Margaret Briggs Character Analysis

Elsa’s mother, characterized by a fierce love and strong instinctual connection with her daughter. A dowdy and scatterbrained woman who wears too-big shoes and always concedes to her overbearing husband, Jack, Margaret isn’t as outwardly imposing as other female characters like Ida or Sister Penny. However, her constancy and protectiveness toward Elsa belie her appearance. At the end of the novel, likely against her husband’s wishes, Margaret facilitates Elsa’s reunion with Frank and decisively tells her overbearing sister-in-law Nance Briggs that polio won’t limit Elsa’s prospects. These incidents show that her daughter’s illness hasn’t defeated Margaret; in fact, it’s strengthened her character.

Margaret Briggs Quotes in The Golden Age

The The Golden Age quotes below are all either spoken by Margaret Briggs or refer to Margaret Briggs. 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.
3. Elsa Quotes

When at last she’d left the Isolation Ward and her parents were allowed to sit by her bed, they looked smaller to her, aged by the terror they had suffered, old, shrunken, ill-at-ease. Something had happened to her which she didn’t yet understand. As if she’d gone away and come back distant from everybody.

Related Characters: Elsa Briggs (speaker), Margaret Briggs, Jack Briggs
Related Symbols: The Isolation Ward
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Sometimes even now in the Golden Age, after her mother visited, Elsa had the funny feeling that there was another mother waiting for her, blurred, gentle, beautiful as an angel, with an angel’s perfect understanding.

Related Characters: Elsa Briggs (speaker), Margaret Briggs
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
14. Margaret in Her Garden Quotes

Margaret grieved that her daughter had to carry this burden. Elsa, each time she saw her, had become more adult. She had lost her childhood. If she didn’t see Elsa more often, didn’t pay her close attention, Margaret wouldn’t keep up with her. Her daughter would outgrow her.

Related Characters: Margaret Briggs (speaker), Elsa Briggs
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Golden Age LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Age PDF

Margaret Briggs Character Timeline in The Golden Age

The timeline below shows where the character Margaret Briggs appears in The Golden Age. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
9. The Dark Night
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...her bed and yelling at her to give up. She can also see her mother, Margaret, standing at the observation window and crying; looking at her, Elsa knows that if she... (full context)
13. Meyer Walks Home
Vocation Theme Icon
Strength, Physicality, and Femininity Theme Icon
...running into the hospital, who reminds him momentarily of his sister, Roszi. It’s Elsa’s mother, Margaret, who begs to be allowed to see her daughter. (full context)
14. Margaret in Her Garden
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
Margaret spends the morning before her visit to the hospital doing chores in the stiflingly hot... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Margaret sees her neighbor Raymond’s truck in the next driveway, which reminds her that he’s delivering... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Strength, Physicality, and Femininity Theme Icon
On the ride into Perth, Margaret feels shy being alone in the car with Raymond. Before Elsa got polio, she wasn’t... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
Reading in bed, Elsa recognizes Margaret’s footsteps before she sees her mother. Although she knows she should be happy to see... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Margaret stops talking and Elsa relaxes a little. Her connection to her mother doesn’t rest on... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
As the nurses return to the ward from their tea, Margaret collects her things quickly, afraid of getting in trouble despite Elsa’s brusque assurances that they... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
As she walks to the train station, Margaret worries about facing Jack. She knows he’ll be deaf to her excuses and call her... (full context)
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Strength, Physicality, and Femininity Theme Icon
Margaret loves all her children equally, but she has a special connection to Elsa; they have... (full context)
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
...remarks that Elsa looks nothing like her mother, but Elsa doesn’t want to talk about Margaret. Still, Frank is delighted that Elsa casually says she’ll see him the next day. To... (full context)
26. The Third Country
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Vocation Theme Icon
...quite appreciate the magnitude of the disasters he’s lived through. In turn, Elsa recounts all Margaret’s stories about her childhood, and tells Frank about growing up in her rural neighborhood. Frank... (full context)
29. The Call
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...she watched the German tanks roll into Budapest. Right away, she goes inside and telephones Margaret. (full context)
30. The Separation
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Margaret has been briskly caring for Elsa at home, diligently massaging her muscles every afternoon. Her... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
This is what has finally given Margaret the strength to stand up to Nance. Nance has decided that since Elsa is disabled... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
...neat and organized Golden Age, Elsa is overwhelmed. Her family’s constant talking and complaining, and Margaret’s anxiety to please everyone, make her exhausted. Jack has converted the back verandah into a... (full context)
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... (full context)
31. The Visit
Parenthood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Strength, Physicality, and Femininity Theme Icon
Margaret nervously pours tea. Her clothes are all disarranged. Jack feels embarrassed for his wife, whom... (full context)
Survival Theme Icon
Meyer realizes that Margaret reminds him of his buxom younger sister, Roszi. During the war she remained in Balaton... (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 that they were all asked... (full context)
Isolation vs. Solitude Theme Icon
Suddenly, it starts to thunder. Margaret needs to bring the washing in before it rains, so that Jane will have dry... (full context)