Study Guide

Sylvie Todd in Life After Life

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Sylvie Todd

Mixed Morals

Ursula's mother, Sylvie, is traditional to a fault. She hates Izzie (often fantasizing about her getting kidnapped by "white slave traders" (4.66)) because Izzie is what Sylvie believes to be a woman of loose morals. Sylvie's also cruel to Ursula when she gets pregnant, even though this only happens because Ursula is raped.

Despite promoting her traditional values, Sylvie is quite the hypocrite. She's uptight about Izzie's behavior, but she has been cheating on her husband for who knows how long. Seriously—the evidence comes in spades:

  • She knows about the Imperial Hotel in Vienna, although why she's been there we don't know, because her husband has not.
  • Her relationship with Mrs. Glover's son, George, is unclear. When he's bringing the harvest in, she notices "the long lock of hair that always fell in his handsome blue eyes" (6.81) and she blushes.
  • She later thinks of George instead of Hugh when in bed with her husband that night.
  • And Ursula once sees her "on the arm of a rather elegant man" (20.150) in London, though the mystery is never unraveled.

Who's a loose woman now, Sylvie? Uh-huh… She acts like being a wife and a mother is her fate, but she isn't very nurturing in either role. And when her husband and one of her sons (Teddy) die, she kills herself by overdosing on sleeping pills. We guess if you live your whole life as a wife and mother, and your husband and son die, you have nothing left to live for, though in some ways this suicide is the most devoted she ever truly seems to those roles.

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