The Widow’s Might

by

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Adelaide Character Analysis

Adelaide is Mrs. and Mr. McPherson’s daughter and James and Ellen’s sister. Adelaide lives in Pittsburg with her husband, Mr. Oswald, who is well-off but unwilling to financially support Mrs. McPherson. She can’t stand to be in Colorado and plans to depart with her siblings as soon as they’ve settled the inheritance. Adelaide admits what none of the three siblings want to say: that they aren’t concerned about what happens to their mother because they love her, but because they feel duty-bound to her as her children. When she finds out that her mother owns all of the family’s property, Adelaide suggests that she sign it over to James simply because she wants to get out of Colorado as fast as possible.

Adelaide Quotes in The Widow’s Might

The The Widow’s Might quotes below are all either spoken by Adelaide or refer to Adelaide. 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:
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
).
The Widow’s Might Quotes

“Perhaps if she stayed with me, you could—help some,” suggested Ellen.

“Of course, of course, I could do that,” he agreed with evident relief. “She might visit between you –take turns—and I could pay her board. About how much ought it to amount to? We might as well arrange everything now.”

“Things cost awfully these days,” Ellen said with a crisscross of fine wrinkles on her pale forehead. “But, of course it would be only just what it costs. I shouldn’t want to make anything.”

“It’s work and care, Ellen, and you may as well admit it.”

Related Characters: Ellen (speaker), Adelaide (speaker), James (speaker), Mrs. McPherson
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

“She had help toward the last—a man nurse,” said Adelaide.

“Yes, but a long illness is an awful strain—and Mother never was good at nursing. She has surely done her duty,” pursued Ellen.

“And now she’s entitled to rest,” said James, rising and walking about the room.

Related Characters: Adelaide (speaker), Ellen (speaker), Mrs. McPherson
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

Ellen looked out across the dusty stretches of land.

“How I did hate to live here!” she said.

“So did I,” said Adelaide.

“So did I,” said James.

And they all three smiled rather grimly.

“We don’t any of us seem to be very—affectionate, about mother,” Adelaide presently admitted, “I don’t know why it is—we never were an affectionate family, I guess”

“Nobody could be affectionate with Father,” Ellen suggested timidly.

“And Mother—poor Mother! She’s had an awful life.”

“Mother has always done her duty,” said James in a determined voice, “and so did Father, as he saw it. Now we’ll do ours.”

Related Characters: James (speaker), Ellen (speaker), Adelaide (speaker), Mrs. McPherson , Mr. McPherson
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

“I have no children, Mr. Frankland. I have two daughters and a son. Those two grown persons here, grown up, married, having children of their own—or ought to have—were my children. I did my duty by them, and they did their duty by me—and would yet, no doubt.” The tone changed suddenly. “But they don’t have to. I’m tired of duty.” The little group of listeners looked up, startled.

Related Characters: Mrs. McPherson (speaker), James, Ellen, Adelaide, Mr. Frankland
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

“I’m going to do what I never did before. I’m going to live!”

With a firm swift step, the tall figure moved to the window and pulled up the lowered shades. The brilliant Colorado sunshine poured into the room. She threw off the long black veil.

“That’s borrowed,” she said. “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings at the funeral.”

She unbuttoned the long black cloak and dropped it at her feet, standing there in the full sunlight, a little flushed and smiling, dressed in a well-made traveling suit of dull mixed colors.

Related Characters: Mrs. McPherson (speaker), Adelaide, Ellen, James
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

“Are you—are you sure you’re—well, Mother?” Ellen urged with real anxiety.

Her mother laughed outright.

“Well, really well, never was better, have been doing business up to to-day—good medical testimony that. No question of my sanity, my dears! I want you to grasp the fact that your mother is a Real Person with some interests of her own and half a lifetime yet. The first twenty didn’t count for much—I was growing up and couldn’t help myself. The last thirty have been—hard. James perhaps realizes that more than you girls, but you all know it. Now, I’m free.”

Related Characters: Mrs. McPherson (speaker), Ellen (speaker), James, Adelaide, Mr. McPherson
Page Number: 146-147
Explanation and Analysis:

“Where do you mean to go, Mother?” James asked.

She looked around the little circle with a serene air of decision and replied.

“To New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to go there,” she pursued. “Now I’m going. And to Australia—and Tasmania—and Madagascar—and Terra del Fuego. I shall be gone some time.”

They separated that night—three going East, one West.

Related Characters: Mrs. McPherson (speaker), James (speaker), Adelaide, Ellen
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
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Adelaide Character Timeline in The Widow’s Might

The timeline below shows where the character Adelaide appears in The Widow’s Might. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Widow’s Might
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...certainly won’t leave for a funeral in Denver in the middle of winter. Ellen and Adelaide attend as well (out of a sense of duty), but their husbands, Mr. Jennings and... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...also says that her offer depends on how much her inheritance will amount to. Next, Adelaide offers to take her in, immediately undermining her offer by saying she doubts her mother... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...their mother would be most comfortable with James because he has such a large house. Adelaide agrees, adding that she believes a woman is always better off with a son than... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...help out. James agrees and suggests that their mother could stay with either Ellen or Adelaide while he would pay her entire board. He asks how much that might cost, insisting... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Now Adelaide again offers to take her mother in, saying that her house is big enough and... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...year. James calculates that this adds up to around $600 a year and then asks Adelaide if her husband would contribute. Adelaide flushes before saying he probably wouldn’t unless absolutely necessary.... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Ellen insists that either she or Adelaide can take their mother in, and if James is willing to pay, he’ll be spared... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Adelaide interjects that she noticed her mother’s black funeral clothes were old—the same ones she has... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...her, their mother will have aged significantly after caring for their father for so long. Adelaide reminds her that a male nurse helped out towards the end, but Ellen insists that... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...sold. Ellen looks out at the land, then exclaims that she always hated living there. Adelaide and James both agree, and the three siblings smile at each other grimly. (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Adelaide admits that none of them are very affectionate towards their mother and reflects that the... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...will. Ellen, again with a furrowed brow, goes back downstairs to let the others know. Adelaide and James exchange glances as Mr. Frankland jumps right in to reading the will. (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...in four equal parts. Two of those parts are left to James, while Ellen and Adelaide are to receive one each. The will states that the three children are responsible for... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...mother that they can’t be away from home any longer than they already have been. Adelaide suggests that she give the property back to James or to all three of the... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
...they know, and they know how she feels. Their mother declares that she is alive. Adelaide, impatient and a little annoyed, tells her that they understand it’s hard for her to... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...when he died, which would leave $4,000 for James and $2,000 each for Ellen and Adelaide. She tells them she’ll give them their money now, although suggests that the daughters take... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...doctor, for the same amount. Mr. Frankland tells her that she has done remarkably well. Adelaide is stunned that she’ll have an income of $2,000 a year. Ellen shyly inquires if... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...needed. She explains that this leaves “$5,000 to play with, and [she’s] going to play.” Adelaide and Ellen look stunned and try to interject, suggesting that she’s too old for such... (full context)