The Way Up to Heaven

by

Roald Dahl

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Mrs. Foster Character Analysis

Mrs. Foster is the protagonist of the story. For thirty years of marriage, she has been a “good and loving wife” to her husband, Mr. Eugene Foster. She and Mr. Foster live in New York, while their only daughter lives in Paris. Mrs. Foster is meek, but kindhearted and loyal, and she has an “almost pathological” fear of being late. This fear drives her nearly to the point of hysteria, physically manifesting in a persistent eye twitch. At the beginning of the story, she is planning to board a plane to see her daughter in Paris and meet her grandchildren for the first time, but Mr. Foster is careless about being on time, as he always seems to be. As the story progresses, she begins to suspect more and more that he may be making her late on purpose to inflict a kind of psychological torture on her. This suspicion is confirmed when he runs into the house to look for their daughter’s gift, but she finds it hidden in the seat of the car, presumably so that she would miss her flight. When Mrs. Foster runs to the door to tell him, she hears something that makes her return to the car and tell the driver to take her to the airport without her husband. At the end, Dahl implies that Mrs. Foster heard the sound of their elevator getting stuck between floors and she left anyway, knowing that her husband would die trapped there. This decision brings out a new confidence and satisfaction in Mrs. Foster, doing away with her prior nervousness.

Mrs. Foster Quotes in The Way Up to Heaven

The The Way Up to Heaven quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Foster or refer to Mrs. Foster. 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:
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Way Up to Heaven published in 1990.
The Way Up to Heaven Quotes

At least half an hour before it was time to leave the house for the station, Mrs. Foster would step out of the elevator all ready to go, with hat and coat and gloves, and then, being quite unable to sit down, she would flutter and fidget about from room to room until her husband, who must have been well aware of her state, finally emerged from his privacy and suggested in a cool dry voice that perhaps they had better be going now, had they not? …His timing was so accurate - just a minute or two late, you understand - and his manner so bland that it was hard to believe he wasn’t purposely inflicting a nasty private little torture of his own on the unhappy lady.

Related Characters: Mrs. Foster, Mr. Eugene Foster
Explanation and Analysis:

And now, lately, she had come more and more to feel that she did not really wish to live out her days in a place where she could not be near these children, and have them visit her, and take them out for walks, and buy them presents, and watch them grow. She knew, of course, that it was wrong and in a way disloyal to have thoughts like these while her husband was still alive.

Related Characters: Mrs. Foster, Mr. Eugene Foster
Explanation and Analysis:

“But don’t you really think Walker should stay there all the time to look after things?” she asked meekly.

“Nonsense. It’s quite unnecessary. And anyway, I’d have to pay him full wages.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “Of course.”

“What’s more, you never know what people get up to when they’re left alone in a house,” Mr. Foster announced, and with that he took out a cigar and, after snipping off the end with a silver cutter, lit it with a gold lighter.

Related Characters: Mrs. Foster (speaker), Mr. Eugene Foster (speaker)
Explanation and Analysis:

She couldn’t be sure, but it seemed to her that there was suddenly a new note in his voice, and she turned to look at him… She glanced at him again, and this time she noticed with a kind of horror that he was staring intently at the little place in the corner of her left eye where she could feel the muscle twitching.

Related Characters: Mrs. Foster, Mr. Eugene Foster
Explanation and Analysis:

“In that case, dear, I’ll just get myself a room somewhere for the night. And don’t you bother yourself about it at all.”

“That would be foolish,” he said. “You’ve got a large house here at your disposal. Use it.”

“But, dear, it’s empty.”

“Then I’ll stay with you myself.”

“There’s no food in the house. There’s nothing.”

“Then eat before you come in. Don’t be so stupid, woman. Everything you do, you seem to want to make a fuss about it.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Foster (speaker), Mr. Eugene Foster (speaker)
Explanation and Analysis:

“No,” he said slowly. “I don’t think I will. But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t drop me at the club on your way.”

She looked at him, and at that moment he seemed to be standing a long way off from her, beyond some borderline. He was suddenly so small and far away that she couldn’t be sure what he was doing, or what he was thinking, or even what he was.

Related Characters: Mr. Eugene Foster (speaker), Mrs. Foster
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point, Mrs. Foster suddenly spotted a corner of something white wedged down in the crack of the seat on the side where her husband had been sitting. She reached over and pulled out a small paper-wrapped box, and at the same time she couldn’t help noticing that it was wedged down firm and deep, as though with the help of a pushing hand.

Related Characters: Mrs. Foster, Mr. Eugene Foster
Explanation and Analysis:

The chauffeur, had he been watching her closely, might have noticed that her face had turned absolutely white and that the whole expression had suddenly altered. There was no longer that rather soft and silly look. A peculiar hardness had settled itself upon the features. The little mouth, usually so flabby, was now tight and thin, the eyes were bright, and the voice, when she spoke, carried a new note of authority.

Related Characters: Mrs. Foster, The Driver
Explanation and Analysis:

Once a week, on Tuesdays, she wrote a letter to her husband, a nice, chatty letter—full of news and gossip, which always ended with the words “Now be sure to take your meals regularly, dear, although this is something I’m afraid you may not be doing when I’m not with you.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Foster, Mr. Eugene Foster
Explanation and Analysis:

“Hello,” she said. “Listen - this is Nine East Sixty-second Street…Yes, that’s right. Could you send someone round as soon as possible, do you think? Yes, it seems to be stuck between the second and third floors. At least, that’s where the indicator’s pointing…Right away? Oh, that’s very kind of you. You see, my legs aren’t any too good for walking up a lot of stairs. Thank you so much. Good-bye.”

She replaced the receiver and sat there at her husband’s desk, patiently waiting for the man who would be coming soon to repair the lift.

Related Characters: Mrs. Foster (speaker), Mr. Eugene Foster
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Way Up to Heaven LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Way Up to Heaven PDF

Mrs. Foster Character Timeline in The Way Up to Heaven

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Foster appears in The Way Up to Heaven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Way Up to Heaven
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
Mrs. Foster has an “almost pathological fear” of being late, especially for a trip. While not otherwise... (full context)
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
...nonchalant that it seems like he is “inflicting a nasty private little torture” on his wife. What’s more is she would never dare to bring it up because he “disciplined her... (full context)
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
...making her wait, this behavior was “doubly unreasonable” since Mrs. Foster has been a good wife for over thirty years who had “served him loyally and well.” She is such a... (full context)
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Propriety and Class Theme Icon
Mr. Foster and his wife live in a six-story house in Manhattan with four servants. Normally, the place is quite... (full context)
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Mrs. Foster is headed to Paris to visit her daughter and finally meet her grandchildren of whom... (full context)
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Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
More and more, Mrs. Foster finds herself wishing that she could live in Paris to be with her grandchildren all... (full context)
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
Finally, Mr. Foster emerges and says casually that they should probably get going. Mrs. Foster replies that the butler has his coat and reminds him that the car is waiting.... (full context)
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Propriety and Class Theme Icon
...club while she is gone, only occasionally stopping by the house to get the mail. Mrs. Foster meekly suggests that their butler could stay and do that, but Mr. Foster refuses because... (full context)
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
The fog thickens as they approach the airport and it seems unlikely that Mrs. Foster will fly that day. Mr. Foster tells her to stop fussing, his tone somehow changed.... (full context)
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
...that they must be stuck, but the driver tells them they are at the airport. Mrs. Foster rushes out of the car and is told that her flight is postponed but that... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Propriety and Class Theme Icon
Mrs. Foster runs back to tell her husband the news and they agree that there’s no point... (full context)
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Propriety and Class Theme Icon
Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
Mrs. Foster wants to get a hotel, presumably near the airport, but her husband tells her to... (full context)
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
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Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
Mrs. Foster arrives home, tells her husband of her new departure time, and that the weather is... (full context)
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Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
The next morning, Mrs. Foster is again ready long before nine, but her husband does not appear until just after... (full context)
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Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
They are already a few minutes behind, and Mrs. Foster asks the driver to please hurry. Just as they are about to leave, Mr. Foster... (full context)
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Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
Mrs. Foster pleads with him to be quick, and she asks the driver again if they have... (full context)
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
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Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
Sliding the key into the keyhole, Mrs. Foster suddenly stops, all franticness gone, listening for some unnamed sound. She stays there for over... (full context)
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Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
Mrs. Foster urges the driver to go quickly, and she makes her plane with a few minutes... (full context)
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Propriety and Class Theme Icon
Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
Arriving back in New York, there is no car to meet Mrs. Foster . She gets a cab, but no one answers the door at their house. With... (full context)