Study Guide

Mrs. Catherick in The Woman in White

By Wilkie Collins

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Mrs. Catherick

Mrs. Catherick could give Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest a run for her money. She is downright mean to her child, Anne: she doesn't bother to disguise her hatred for the girl.

Pray understand that I do not profess to have been at all over-fond of my late daughter. She was a worry to me from first to last, with the additional disadvantage of being always weak in the head. (

Jane Catherick is a woman who regrets getting pregnant and resents her child for it. She had a bit of a scandalous past, and decided to overcompensate for her bad reputation by being the most polite, straight-laced woman in town… though she almost never has a smile on her face.

I came here a wronged woman. I came here robbed of my character and determined to claim it back. I've been years and years about it—and I have claimed it back. I have matched the respectable people fairly and openly, on their own ground. If they say anything against me, now, they must say it in secret; they can't say it, they daren't say it, openly. I stand high enough in this town to be out of your reach. The clergyman bows to me. Aha! you didn't bargain for that, when you came here. (

Mrs. Catherick's behavioral reform is really just a form of revenge on the townies that shunned her back in the day. She's going to force them into treating her with respect and politeness—whether they want to or not.

She's a vindictive woman, and her harsh personality really comes out in full force in the letter she writes to Walter. She is driven largely by what she lacks, and she sets out to get what she doesn't have (be it material wealth or a nod of acknowledgement from the minister) come hell or high water. Her selfish lack of concern for others makes her a contemptible person and an especially bad mother to Anne.

Mrs. Catherick in The Woman in White Study Group

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