The Old Maid by Edith Wharton Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Delia Ralston

Delia Ralston, a young New York matron of impeccable social position. Years before, she had turned down an unconventional young man, and though she is contentedly married, she still speculates secretly about a life of passion. She is relieved when she hears that her cousin Charlotte is to be married. Charlotte, though, changes her mind, confiding to Delia that one of the children in the orphanage nursery she has established is her own—by Delia’s first love—and that marriage will mean giving up the child, Tina, a thing she cannot do. Delia persuades her husband to provide a home for Charlotte and the child; after his death, they live with her. In order to give her a suitable background, Delia adopts Tina. On the girl’s wedding eve, Charlotte accuses Delia of having stolen the girl from her because of her love for the father. Delia realizes the charge is partly true.

Charlotte Lovell

Charlotte Lovell, Delia’s cousin, beautiful and gay in her youth, but strangely changed after her return from a trip to Georgia “for her health.” Delia’s suitor had turned to Charlotte and got her with child, but knowing that he still loved Delia, Charlotte did not tell him of her condition. She breaks her engagement to Joe Ralston in order to keep the child. Although she needs Delia’s protection, she is resentful of her, especially as the little girl obviously prefers Delia, whom she calls “Mother.”...

(The entire section is 497 words.)