The Widow’s Might

by

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Ellen Character Analysis

Ellen is Mrs. and Mr. McPherson’s daughter and James and Adelaide’s sister. Ellen lives in Cambridge with her husband, Mr. Jennings, and her sickly children who demand a lot of her time and attention. Like her siblings, Ellen hated growing up in Colorado and wants to leave as soon as the funeral and her father’s affairs are settled. She offers to take her mother in out of a sense of duty rather than out of true concern, but she does her best to look like a caring and concerned daughter. Ellen admits that their family wasn’t a very loving or affectionate one and that they still aren’t. Ellen is shocked by her mother’s fierce determination to live independently, and it's only after she reveals these intentions that Ellen seems genuinely concerned for her well-being.

Ellen Quotes in The Widow’s Might

The The Widow’s Might quotes below are all either spoken by Ellen or refer to Ellen. 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 dare say it was safer—to have the property in your name—technically,” James admitted, “but now I think it would be the simplest way for you to make it over to me in a lump, and I will see that Father’s wishes are carried out to the letter.”

“Your father is dead,” remarked the voice.

“Yes, Mother, we know—we know how you feel,” Ellen ventured.

“I am alive,” said Mrs. McPherson.

Related Characters: James (speaker), Mrs. McPherson (speaker), Ellen (speaker), Mr. McPherson
Page Number: 144
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:
Get the entire The Widow’s Might LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Widow’s Might PDF

Ellen Character Timeline in The Widow’s Might

The timeline below shows where the character Ellen 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
...vacation. She 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.... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...into a discussion about what to do with their now widowed mother, Mrs. McPherson. First, Ellen offers to take her, admitting that her husband’s salary is more than enough to cover... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
James looks at both his sisters and asks how old their mother is. Ellen replies that she’s 50 and presumes she is worn out after caring for her husband... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Ellen suggests that if their mother stays with her, James could help out. James agrees and... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
...faintly smiling, suggests that it would cost the same as his wife’s clothes do, but Ellen quickly interjects that this estimate is inaccurate because Maude is a high-society woman with more... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
James regards Ellen gratefully and asks her to make an estimate of how much board and clothes should... (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... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...clothes were old—the same ones she has worn for as long as she can remember. Ellen notices that their mother has been upstairs for a while now, so she wants to... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
James insists that they shouldn’t disrespect his memory with this kind of talk. Ellen changes the topic, noting that their mother didn’t remove her veil at the funeral. She... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...that there could be enough to cover their mother’s expenses once everything has been sold. Ellen looks out at the land, then exclaims that she always hated living there. Adelaide and... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...affectionate towards their mother and reflects that the entire family never showed much affection. Timidly, Ellen says that no one could be affectionate with their father. Adelaide exclaims that their mother... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Mr. Frankland arrives, and Ellen stands up to retrieve their mother, Mrs. McPherson. She runs upstairs and knocks on her... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...three siblings 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... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...financial business that afternoon and then take her away with them on the night train. Ellen tells her mother that they can’t be away from home any longer than they already... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
...out the terms of the will. Mrs. McPherson tells them that their father is dead. Ellen tentatively responds that they know, and they know how she feels. Their mother declares that... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...worth $8,000 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... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...done remarkably well. Adelaide is stunned that she’ll have an income of $2,000 a year. Ellen shyly inquires if she’ll still come to live with her, and Mrs. McPherson thanks her... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
With real concern, Ellen asks what she is going to do in that case. Mrs. McPherson declares: “I’m going... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...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 a plan.... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...father 30 years of her life and that the next 30 will be for herself. Ellen anxiously asks if she’s sure she’s feeling well, and Mrs. McPherson laughs in her face.... (full context)