Study Guide

Mrs. Small in The House of Dies Drear

By Virginia Hamilton

Mrs. Small

Mrs. Small is the strong-silent type. Like the other female character we meet in the story, Pesty, Mrs. Small is a bit of a mystery. We know she's so pretty that other women feel threatened by her, at least from Thomas's perspective. We also know she's a kind, loving, and caring woman. She is her husband's confidante – meaning he tells her everything. Like Thomas, she gets frightened, but refuses to be frightened away.

We also know she's apprehensive about the move. On the drive to Ohio, Mr. Small brings up the fact that some of the "floor plans […] had been missing for years" (1.52). Mrs. Small says, "That should tell you there's something funny about the house and anything to do with it" (1.53).

We think she's half joking, half serious, and like anyone moving to a new place, unsure of what she might find. For Thomas, of course, her comment only fuels the mystery. Luckily, Mrs. Small does seem to like the new town and the new house in the end.

We also know she makes a mean hoe cake. But, we seldom see into her head or know what she's thinking. This is partly because this is a story about fathers and sons. For whatever reason, the father-son relationship is the relationship author Virginia Hamilton focuses on in this story. Still, we can see that Mrs. Small's role is an important one. Her strong, steady, supportive presence contributes greatly to the safe environment in which Thomas can explore history and the house of Dies Drear.

Mrs. Small helps make her family's transition to this new town as smooth as possible. Instead of being scared of living in an old, possibly haunted, house, she embraces the adventure that is her husband's life dream. Is it her life dream as well? Are there any clues from the text? Does she want to live in the house of Dies Drear, or is she making a sacrifice? How do you know? If you had to write a paper called, "The Secret Life of Martha Small" what are some of the things you would put in it?