Mrs. Chalmers

Mrs. Chalmers, one of the many interesting characters in Marghanita Laski’s To Bed with Grand Music, is a widow whose husband died while serving in the navy. When we discussed the various categories of women in the novel (mother, wife, mistress, and widow), the only widow we discussed was Mrs. Betts. I think it is important to consider the role Mrs. Chalmers plays as well. She is a widow without children of her own, that would seem to make her redundant (in this society) since she cannot fill either of the two roles Mrs. Betts prescribes to women—wife and mother. Mrs. Chalmers, one might guess, is free. She appears to be a woman outside of the strict categories imposed on her by society. Mrs. Chalmers, however, desperately tries to be a mother to Timmy. There are several moments throughout the text where Mrs. Chalmers feelings about Timmy are clear. Quite early in the text, though, Mrs. Chalmers agrees to Deborah going to London to look for a job. The narrator informs us that she would have agreed to anything “so long as it would bring closer her ultimate possession of Timmy” (Laski 20). Mrs. Chalmers doesn’t simply care for Timmy; she wants to possess him. Her desire to own Timmy reflects a desire to go back and fill the role she missed, the role of mother. Despite her opportunity to escape, Mrs. Chalmers tries desperately to fill one of the two roles, as if there is nothing else for women at this time. Mrs. Chalmers does not know what to do or be if she cannot be either wife or mother. Interestingly, Deborah, who is both a wife and a mother, is the one who is able to escape these strict female roles. Deborah can escape her role as mother because Mrs. Chalmers is there to be mother to Timmy.

Laski, Marghanita. To Bed with Grand Music. Persephone Books, London.

-Rebecca

 

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One thought on “Mrs. Chalmers

  1. Until I read this, I had actually forgotten that Mrs. Chalmers was a widow. I agree that it became clear in the text that she deeply wanted to be a mother to Timmy. I think that I was so surprised when she ultimately tried to quit, because it seemed like she was able to achieve her desire of being the primary mother figure to Timmy. I wonder if she was almost presented as a caricature of what a woman/mother is “supposed” to be according to society at the time. She was able to fully embrace that role without having to be distracted by a husband, while Deborah was able to fully embrace the role of a sexual woman (what a wife is supposed to be?).

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