The Widow’s Might

by

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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James is Mrs. and Mr. McPherson’s son and Adelaide and Ellen’s brother. He lives in New York with his wife, Maude, who everyone knows doesn’t like Mrs. McPherson. Like his sisters, James always hated family life on their ranch in Colorado and wants to wrap up his father’s affairs as quickly as possible so that he can return to his life back east. After the funeral, James makes empty offers that he and Maude would be happy to let Mrs. McPherson live in their home, though he would clearly prefer to provide financial support and nothing more. He is willing to pay for his mother’s clothes, food, and other essentials, but he isn’t willing to commit to the emotional labor of caring for her daily. This task, he thinks, is better suited for one of his sisters. James is seemingly more concerned with his inheritance and the value of his father’s property than he is with his mother’s well-being, as he calculates and re-calculates how much he expects everything will be worth. Rather than mourning his father’s death, he regards the funeral as a business transaction. James is shocked and concerned when his mother announces her intentions to keep the ranch, which now belongs to her, and live independently. He condescendingly tries to convince her to instead sign the property over to him so that he can distribute it as was written in his father’s will, and he’s baffled when she refuses.

James Quotes in The Widow’s Might

The The Widow’s Might quotes below are all either spoken by James or refer to James. 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:

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:
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James Character Timeline in The Widow’s Might

The timeline below shows where the character James 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
James is at a funeral that his wife, Maude, cannot attend because she has to watch... (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... (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 suggests that their mother could stay with either Ellen... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
...cost of providing clothes. Immediately, she backtracks, explaining that her husband would mind that expense. James insists that their mother must be well cared for and then asks how much the... (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... (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 the effort of caring for her. She suggests... (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... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
James says that their mother has earned her rest, and he wonders how quickly they’ll be... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...be affectionate with their father. Adelaide exclaims that their mother lived a terrible life, but James defends both their mother and father, insisting that they admirably upheld their duties as parents.... (full context)
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
...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
...to the 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... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
James clears his throat. He tells his mother that this revelation complicates the siblings’ original plan... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Mrs. McPherson agrees that she has been packing. James concedes that it was safer for the property to be in her name but that... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
James adds that the affairs must be settled right away. Mrs. McPherson replies that everything is... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...that Mr. McPherson’s property was 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... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
James asks if she doesn’t need all this money for herself. She explains she doesn’t because... (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...look stunned and try to interject, suggesting that she’s too old for such a plan. James frowns in a way that makes him look like his father. (full context)
Societal Expectations and Female Independence  Theme Icon
Love vs. Duty Theme Icon
Death, Loss, and New Beginnings Theme Icon
...she was still growing up, and the last 30 have been hard. She figures that James probably understands this best, but that they all know what she means. “Now,” she declares,... (full context)