Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Mary Tilford, a malicious fourteen-year-old schoolgirl. She attends a private girls’ school, where she bullies her fellow classmates, disobeys her teachers, and whines when she is not given her way. She has been brought up by an indulgent grandmother who has spoiled her. When two of her teachers, Karen Wright and Martha Dobie, try to discipline her, she retaliates by spreading the rumor that they are lesbians. Although the rumor is untrue, Mary sticks to her charge. Her shocked grandmother then removes her from the school and convinces the parents of the other children to do likewise, thus destroying the school and ruining the teachers’ lives.
Amelia Tilford, an influential and wealthy older woman. She dotes on Mary, her grandchild. She knows that Mary is petulant, and she initially scoffs at Mary’s attack on the teachers, but she is horrified when Mary whispers her charge that Martha and Karen are lesbians. Blinded by her outrage and unwilling to see through Mary’s manipulation of the facts, she succeeds not only in closing the school but also in ostracizing the two teachers. When Amelia finally learns of Mary’s deception, she abjectly asks for Karen’s forgiveness and searches for a way to rectify the harm she has caused the teachers.
Martha Dobie, an intense woman, twenty-eight years old, devoted to her friendship with Karen and...
(The entire section is 620 words.)
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A no-nonsense, middle-aged maid in the employ of Amelia Tilford. She is stem and straight-laced with Mary, who calls her "stupid." although Agatha clearly sees through Mary's deceptions. Agatha's attempts to make the child into a "lady" are frustrated by Mrs. Tilford, who is deaf to the maid's common-sense observations. Agatha also attempts to support Martha and Karen in their efforts to convince Mrs. Tilford that Mary concocted her story to destroy the young teachers.
See Lily Mortar
One of the girls at Karen and Martha's school, she plays a limited role. It is her bracelet that classmate Rosalie Wells "borrows," an act which allows Mary to blackmail Rosalie into confirming Mary's lies about Karen and Martha. Helen is one of the first to be pulled out of the school when Mrs. Tilford begins spreading the fiction that Karen and Martha are lesbian lovers.
Dr. Joseph Cardin
Cardin, about thirty-five, is a relaxed and amiable doctor and Karen Wright's fiancé. His casual dress reflects his warm, easy-going nature. He is also gracious and humorous and seems ideally suited to Karen. Like her, he recognizes that his cousin, Mary Tilford, is a spoiled but troubled child, which makes him a dangerous adversary for Mary because he has influence with her grandmother. However, when Mary poisons Mrs. Tilford's mind with her accusations against Karen and Martha,...
(The entire section is 1889 words.)