The character of Sophy is developed in terms of her relations with her setting and also in particular her son. As she was raised through marriage to a middle-class life from her humbler working-class origins, she spends her life consciously aware of how she still bears marks of her roots. Her son, for example, is shamed to have to correct her spelling and grammar. However, after the death of her husband, Sophy finds herself trapped in a middle-class universe where she feels profoundly estranged from herself and who she really feels she is. Note how her life is described following the death of her husband:
Her life became insupportably dreary; she could not take walks, and had no interest in going for drives, or, indeed, in travelling anywhere. Nearly two years passed without an event, and still she looked on that suburban road, thinking of the village in which she had been born, and whither she would have gone back—O how gladly!—even to work in the fields.
She is only left to think fondly of her life in the village and the many happy memories she has of how carefree and at ease she was with herself, compared to the profound disease that she experiences now. It is clear that the social rise of Sophy has only brought her sadness, and this sadness is intensified by the distance that seems to be growing every day between herself and her son, as he rises up even further the social ladder and becomes more and more ashamed of his mother.