The Spoils of Poynton

by Henry James

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

“The Spoils of Poynton” is a work by Henry James that explores the battle between a dysfunctional family, where mother Adeleh refuses to give her blessing to the marriage of Owen and Mona, not because she feels Mona will be a bad wife for her son but because she doesn’t want their inheritance falling into the hands of such a “coarse woman”. Here are the primary characters in the work.

Adeleh Gereth

Adeleh is the matriarch of the family. She lives at the family country home, Ricks, but their main property is at Poynton. Her husband has passed away, and her son, Owen stands to inherit their riches and items of great value. She has moved all of the valuables with her to the small estate at Ricks to prevent Owen from getting access to them. She claims to hate Owen’s fiancée, Mona, because she is uncaring and rude, but those seem to be two of her own most prominent traits.

Owen Gereth

Owen is the adult son of Adeleh and heir to her fortune. He is attempting to get access to the items that he rightfully owns through his inheritance, but can’t because of his engagement to Mona. He is manipulative and deceptive, as well as cunning and charming. He convinces his mother and Fleda that he has fallen in love with Fleda and will be abandoning Mona so that he can reclaim his valuables.

Mona Brigstock

Mona is Owen’s fiancee. Like everyone else intertwined with the Gereth family, she is cold and calculating, somewhat ruthless, and coarse. The novel depicts these three characters as something of military generals engaged in a battlefront, which is the reason with the title refers to the “Spoils” of Poynton—because they are essentially the spoils of this war.

Fleda Vetch

Fleda is a tasteful, kind, and mature woman. She is a much better match for Owen in the eyes of his mother, and Adeleh attempts to use her to convince Owen to break off his engagement in one way or another. There is hope that Owen will fall in love with the well-bred Fleda and leave Mona. However, if Fleda engaged willingly in this deception, she would stoop to the same level as the other characters. Fleda is mature and responsible, and when Owen eventually does profess his love for her, she rebukes him and reminds him that he is already engaged.

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