The Return of the Soldier

by

Rebecca West

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Margaret Allington Grey Character Analysis

Margaret is married to William Grey and lives in a house called Mariposa in the downscale suburb of Wealdstone. Margaret spent her teenage years living on Monkey Island on the Thames, where her father, Mr. Allington, was an innkeeper. She and Chris Baldry were a couple in 1901 and hoped to marry, then broke things off over a petty quarrel. Chris describes the youthful Margaret as shy, sharp-minded, and loving. After her breakup with Chris and her father’s death, Margaret eventually married Mr. Grey, and although she isn’t in love with him, she’s happiest while taking care of him; she becomes depressed when she doesn’t have someone to look after and protect. She and William had one child, Dick, who died at the age of two, and she is heartbroken over her childlessness. After Chris is stricken with amnesia and comes to believe that Margaret is still his girlfriend, Margaret receives a telegram from him and informs Kitty and Jenny of his condition, then rekindles a romance with him upon his return to Baldry Court. Though Kitty scorns Margaret’s aged, unfashionable, lower-class appearance, Jenny realizes that Margaret has an attractive soul and that she offers Chris something deeper than either she or Kitty can—she is sensitive, romantic, and instinctively appreciative of all beautiful things. Though Margaret initially wants to let Chris remain happily lodged in the past, she decides this would be doing him a disservice in the long run and shows him his son Oliver’s belongings, thereby bringing him back to the present.

Margaret Allington Grey Quotes in The Return of the Soldier

The The Return of the Soldier quotes below are all either spoken by Margaret Allington Grey or refer to Margaret Allington Grey. 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:
Nostalgia, Escapism, and Reality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Return of the Soldier published in 1998.
Chapter 1  Quotes

Well, she was not so bad. Her body was long and round and shapely and with a noble squareness of the shoulders; her fair hair curled diffidently about a good brow; her grey eyes, though they were remote, as if anything worth looking at in her life had kept a long way off, were full of tenderness; and though she was slender there was something about her of the wholesome endearing heaviness of the draught-ox or the big trusted dog. Yet she was bad enough. She was repulsively furred with neglect and poverty, as even a good glove that has dropped down behind a bed in a hotel and has lain undisturbed for a day or two is repulsive when the chambermaid retrieves it from the dust and fluff.

Related Characters: Jenny Baldry (speaker), Margaret Allington Grey, Kitty Ellis Baldry
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Well, one sounded the bell that hung on a post, and presently Margaret in a white dress would come out of the porch and would walk to the stone steps down to the river. Invariably, as she passed the walnut tree that overhung the path, she would pick a leaf and crush it and sniff the sweet scent; and as she came near the steps she would shade her eyes and peer across the water. “She is a little near-sighted; you can’t imagine how sweet it makes her look.” (I did not say that I had seen her, for indeed this Margaret I had never seen.)

Related Characters: Jenny Baldry (speaker), Christopher (Chris) Baldry (speaker), Margaret Allington Grey
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

She was then just a girl in white who lifted a white face or drooped a dull gold head. And as that she was nearer to him than at any other time. That he loved her, in this twilight which obscured all the physical details which he adored, seemed to him a guarantee that theirs was a changeless love which would persist if she were old or maimed or disfigured. He […] watched the white figure take the punt over the black waters, mount the grey steps and assume their greyness, become a green shade in the green darkness of the foliage-darkened lawn, and he exulted in that guarantee.

Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Wealdstone is not, in its way, a bad place; it lies in the lap of open country and at the end of every street rise the green hill of Harrow and the spires of Harrow School. But all the streets are long and red and freely articulated with railway arches, and factories spoil the skyline with red angular chimneys, and in front of the shops stand little women with backs ridged by cheap stays, who tapped their upper lips with their forefingers and made other feeble, doubtful gestures as though they wanted to buy something and knew that if they did they would have to starve some other appetite. When we asked them the way they turned to us faces sour with thrift. It was a town of people who could not do as they liked.

Related Characters: Jenny Baldry (speaker), Margaret Allington Grey
Related Symbols: Landscape and Nature
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

When she came back into the parlour again she was wearing that yellowish raincoat, that hat whose hearse plumes nodded over its sticky straw, that grey alpaca skirt. I first defensively clutched my hands. It would have been such agony to the finger tips to touch any part of her apparel. And then I thought of Chris, to whom a second before I had hoped to bring a serene comforter. I perceived clearly that that ecstatic woman lifting her eyes and her hands to the benediction of love was Margaret as she existed in eternity; but this was Margaret as she existed in time, as the fifteen years between Monkey Island and this damp day in Ladysmith Road had irreparably made her. Well, I had promised to bring her to him.

Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Then, one April afternoon, Chris landed at the island, and by the first clean quick movement of tying up his boat made her his slave. I could imagine that it would be so. He was so wonderful when he was young; he possessed in great measure the loveliness of young men, which is like the loveliness of the spry foal or the sapling, but in him it was vexed into a serious and moving beauty by the inhabiting soul. […] [F]rom his eyes, which though grey were somehow dark with speculation, one perceived that he was distracted by participation in some spiritual drama. To see him was to desire intimacy with him so that one might intervene between this body which was formed for happiness, and this soul which cherished so deep a faith in tragedy.

Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

As the car swung through the gates of Baldry Court she sat up and dried her eyes. She looked out at the strip of turf, so bright that one would think it wet, and lit here and there with snowdrops and scillas and crocuses, that runs between the drive and the tangle of silver birch and bramble and fern. There is no aesthetic reason for that border; the common outside looks lovelier where it fringes the road with dark gorse and rough amber grasses. Its use is purely philosophic; it proclaims that here we estimate only controlled beauty, that the wild will not have its way within our gates, that it must be made delicate and decorated into felicity. Surely she must see that this was no place for beauty that has been not mellowed but lacerated by time, that no one accustomed to live here could help wincing at such external dinginess as hers.

Related Characters: Jenny Baldry (speaker), Margaret Allington Grey
Related Symbols: Landscape and Nature
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

But instead she said, “It’s a big place. How poor Chris must have worked to keep it up.” […] No one had ever before pitied Chris for the magnificence of Baldry Court. It had been our pretence that by wearing costly clothes and organizing a costly life we had been the servants of his desire. But she revealed the truth that although he did indeed desire a magnificent house, it was a house not built with hands.

Related Characters: Jenny Baldry (speaker), Margaret Allington Grey (speaker), Christopher (Chris) Baldry
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

[Jenny] constantly contrasted [Margaret’s] appearance with the new acquisition of Kitty’s decorative genius which stood so close behind her on the table […] This was a shallow black bowl in the centre of which crouched on hands and knees a white naked nymph, […] Beside the pure black of the bowl her rusty plumes looked horrible; beside that white nymph, eternally innocent of all but the contemplation of beauty, her opaque skin and her suffering were offensive; beside its air of being the coolly conceived and leisurely executed production of a hand and brain lifted by their rare quality to the service of the not absolutely necessary, her appearance of having but for the moment ceased to cope with a vexed and needy environment struck one as a cancerous blot on the fair world.

Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

I covered my eyes and said aloud, “In a minute he will see her face, her hands.” But although it was a long time before I looked again they were still clinging breast to breast. It was as though her embrace fed him, he looked so strong as he broke away. They stood with clasped hands, looking at one another (they looked straight, they looked delightedly!), and then as if resuming a conversation tiresomely interrupted by some social obligation, drew together again and passed under the tossing branches of the cedar to the wood beyond. I reflected, while Kitty wept, how entirely right Chris had been in his assertion that to lovers innumerable things do not matter.

Related Symbols: Landscape and Nature
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

I felt, indeed, a cold intellectual pride in his refusal to remember his prosperous maturity and his determined dwelling in the time of his first love, for it showed him so much saner than the rest of us, who take life as it comes, loaded with the inessential and the irritating. I was even willing to admit that this choice of what was to him reality out of all the appearances so copiously presented by the world, this adroit recovery of the dropped pearl of beauty, was the act of genius I had always expected from him. But that did not make less agonizing this exclusion from his life.

Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

I have often seen people grouped like that on the common outside our gates, on Bank Holidays. […] So it was not until now, when it happened to my friends, […] that I knew that it was the most significant as it was the loveliest attitude in the world. It means that the woman has gathered the soul of the man into her soul and is keeping it warm in love and peace so that his body can rest quiet for a little time. That is a great thing for a woman to do. I know there are things at least as great for those women whose independent spirits can ride fearlessly and with interest outside the home park of their personal relationships, but independence is not the occupation of most of us. What we desire is greatness such as this which had given sleep to the beloved.

Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

Perhaps even her dinginess was part of her generosity […] I could believe of Margaret that her determined dwelling in places where there was not enough of anything, her continued exposure of herself to the grime of squalid living, was unconsciously deliberate. The deep internal thing that had guided Chris to forgetfulness had guided her to poverty so that when the time came for her meeting with her lover there should be not one intimation of the beauty of suave flesh to distract him from the message of her soul.

Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Not only did [Margaret’s agony] make my body hurt with sympathy, it shook the ground beneath my feet. For that her serenity, which a moment before had seemed as steady as the earth and as all-enveloping as the sky, should be so utterly dispelled made me aware that I had of late been underestimating the cruelty of the order of things. Lovers are frustrated; children are not begotten that should have had the loveliest life, the pale usurpers of their birth die young. Such a world will not suffer magic circles to endure.

Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

Now, why did Kitty, who was the falsest thing on earth, who was in tune with every kind of falsity, by merely suffering somehow remind us of reality? Why did her tears reveal to me what I had learned long ago, but had forgotten in my frenzied love, that there is a draught that we must drink or not be fully human? I knew that one must know the truth. I knew quite well that when one is adult one must raise to one’s lips the wine of the truth, heedless that it is not sweet like milk but draws the mouth with its strength, and celebrate communion with reality, or else walk for ever queer and small like a dwarf.

Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
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Margaret Allington Grey Character Timeline in The Return of the Soldier

The timeline below shows where the character Margaret Allington Grey appears in The Return of the Soldier. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Social Class, Beauty, and Humanity Theme Icon
...that the woman has noble shoulders, a good brow, and tender eyes, but she likens Mrs. Grey ’s solidity to that of an ox or a trusted dog. Jenny adds that Mrs.... (full context)
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Mrs. Grey fidgets with her purse and seems embarrassed. She’s heard from her maid, she explains, that... (full context)
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The Traumas of Modernity Theme Icon
...can’t help feeling put off by the accusatory way Kitty begins interrogating the woman. When Mrs. Grey says that Chris has “shell-shock,” Kitty doesn’t react. When she asks how Mrs. Grey knows... (full context)
Social Class, Beauty, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Traumas of Modernity Theme Icon
...feels ashamed that such an incident is connected to Chris, and she is touched by Mrs. Grey ’s patient gaze, which reminds her of “an old horse nosing over a gate.” She... (full context)
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Mrs. Grey hands Kitty the telegram and explains that it was sent to her old home, Monkey... (full context)
Chapter 2 
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...is that Chris boyishly informed Frank that he is in love with a girl named Margaret Allington, daughter of the innkeeper on Monkey Island. Shocked, Frank asked how long this had... (full context)
Nostalgia, Escapism, and Reality Theme Icon
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Chris asked Frank if he wouldn’t mind sending Margaret some money, or fetching her himself, since Margaret hadn’t wired Chris any news of leaving... (full context)
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...that he is in fact 36, not 21. He was frightened and wanted to see Margaret immediately. He also wept over the information that his father died 12 years ago. Later,... (full context)
Nostalgia, Escapism, and Reality Theme Icon
The Traumas of Modernity Theme Icon
...telling Kitty that he knows his behavior must seem insulting, but that he must see Margaret or else he’ll die. Kitty agrees. Jenny is amazed at Kitty’s unselfishness, then notices the... (full context)
Chapter 3
Nostalgia, Escapism, and Reality Theme Icon
Social Class, Beauty, and Humanity Theme Icon
...white house, the Monkey Island Inn. When Chris rang a bell hung on a post, Margaret would emerge from the house wearing a white dress. On her way down to the... (full context)
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Eventually Chris and Margaret go up to find her father, Mr. Allington, tending to his poultry or rabbits, and... (full context)
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...that he can remember, Chris bicycles to Monkey Island in beautiful summer weather and finds Margaret alone there, Mr. Allington having gone to town on business. Chris tries to coax Margaret... (full context)
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After nightfall, Chris and Margaret cross the lawn to a little Greek-style temple, which had been built by the property’s... (full context)
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...Court, Chris blows out the candles, then pauses and tells Jenny that if she’d seen Margaret’s beauty 15 years ago, she would understand why he can’t repudiate her now. Jenny agrees,... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The next day, it’s Jenny’s job to fetch Margaret from Wealdstone. Before she leaves, she sees Chris rowing a skiff around the pond. He... (full context)
Social Class, Beauty, and Humanity Theme Icon
The Traumas of Modernity Theme Icon
...and it’s populated by lower-class women who can’t afford everything they would like to buy. Margaret’s austere little house seems to blend into the ungroomed field beyond. Margaret herself “belongs” to... (full context)
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Margaret, apologetically telling Jenny that her “girl” is off today, seats her in the parlour. Jenny... (full context)
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After Jenny describes the situation with Chris, Margaret weeps, explaining that when something resurfaces after 15 years, and one is very tired, it’s... (full context)
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Mr. Grey comes in from the garden, and Jenny understands from Margaret’s “girlish” tone that she has made it her life’s mission to “keep loveliness and excitement... (full context)
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As they leave, Margaret comments that Mariposa is “a horrid little house,” and Jenny is forced to agree. Yet,... (full context)
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Mr. Allington and Margaret had settled on Monkey Island after Mrs. Allington’s death, when Margaret was 14. Life had... (full context)
Jenny mentions something of this to Margaret, who brushes indifferently past it, going on with her story. Three weeks after her quarrel... (full context)
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One day, Margaret was seized with a desire to visit Monkey Island once more. The new proprietor gave... (full context)
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As they arrive at Baldry Court, Margaret looks out at the strip of turf along the drive, which is landscaped and covered... (full context)
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Margaret, however, merely pities Chris for having to work so hard to keep up such a... (full context)
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While the women drink tea, Jenny contrasts Margaret’s appearance—especially her dull hat and air of suffering—with a decorative bowl on the table, which... (full context)
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After Jenny sends Margaret outside to meet Chris, she finds she’s on the point of an anxious collapse—or perhaps,... (full context)
Nostalgia, Escapism, and Reality Theme Icon
Social Class, Beauty, and Humanity Theme Icon
...like that dream, he collapses on his knees, only he does so in front of Margaret. Jenny covers her eyes, dreading Chris’s recognition of Margaret’s age and poverty. But when she... (full context)
Chapter 5
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After Margaret is driven home, Chris comes to Kitty and Jenny in the drawing room and says... (full context)
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...“a blind man waiting for darkness to lift,” except for those hours he spends in Margaret’s company. Kitty, depressed, is like a “broken doll,” rarely getting out of bed. Jenny grieves... (full context)
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A week after Chris’s reunion with Margaret, Kitty, still bedridden, declines a walk and reminds Jenny that Dr. Gilbert Anderson is coming... (full context)
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...worse. Yet his steadfast attention to the essentials of his life—namely his renewed love for Margaret—seems an “act of genius” to Jenny. (full context)
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Jenny sees herself, Kitty, and Margaret as symbolizing different types of women. Kitty is the type of woman who “makes the... (full context)
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...hope that today’s doctor might offer something different. But she dreads coming upon him with Margaret and witnessing their intimacy. (full context)
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Though Jenny has been thinking discontentedly of Margaret’s ugliness, she is stunned by the beauty she sees when she comes upon them in... (full context)
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Watching them, Jenny realizes that Margaret has been generous to her and Kitty, too. By placing Chris into “this quiet magic... (full context)
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Margaret has also given Jenny the gift of peaceful sleep—she no longer dreams of No Man’s... (full context)
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Though it feels intrusive—it’s clearly an ecstatic moment for both Margaret and Chris, who stirs awake but keeps clinging to Margaret’s hand—Jenny sits on the rug... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...a tennis ball as they approach. Dr. Anderson takes in the three of them, identifies Margaret, and tells her they’ll talk later. He walks off with Chris. Inside the house, Kitty... (full context)
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Jenny and Margaret go upstairs, and even in her anxiety, Margaret openly admires the beauty of Jenny’s things,... (full context)
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...that Oliver had always been delicate, and that he finally faded away from a cold. Margaret explains that the same thing happened to Dick. “It’s as if,” she says, “they each... (full context)
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The parlourmaid knocks with the message that the doctor wishes to see them. Margaret’s grief-stricken gestures as she sets the photograph aside give Jenny a foreboding feeling. They find... (full context)
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...nothing to say, but Jenny admits she has always sensed something wrong in him. Then Margaret speaks up, saying that Chris has always been “very dependent.” She asks the doctor what... (full context)
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The doctor seems relieved at Margaret’s words, admitting that he can only return people to a generally accepted “normal,” though it... (full context)
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Jenny takes Margaret to the nursery to find some of Oliver’s belongings. Seeing Oliver’s things, Margaret can’t help... (full context)
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Margaret says that she ought never to have come to Chris, or else they should just... (full context)
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...he would eventually become senile, doddering, and eccentric, “not quite a man.” She looks at Margaret and sees that the other woman has realized the same thing. Grieving, they embrace in... (full context)
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Sadly, Margaret takes Oliver’s jersey and ball and goes downstairs. Jenny collapses on an ottoman, her “spirit... (full context)