Mrs. Higgins is "large and plump". She has blue eyes, and for most of the duration of the story, she is dressed in a light coat pulled tightly across her chest "so her dress would not show". Her hair is tucked "loosely under her hat".
Mrs. Higgins is a formidable personality. When the situation calls for it, she can be angry and bitter, emotional, or friendly and, by all appearances, completely in charge of a situation. When Alfred realizes his mother will be coming to in after he has been caught stealing at work, he envisions her rushing in "with her eyes blazing, or maybe she would be crying...and make him feel her dreadful contempt, yet he longed that she might come". As it turns out, Mrs. Higgins sizes up the situation immediately, and, with complete "lack of terror and...simplicity", reasons with "patient dignity" with Alfred's boss, Mr. Carr, and persuades him to allow Alfred to go home with her rather than be arrested. Mr. Carr ends up thinking that Mrs. Higgins is "a fine woman", and he even feels "a bit ashamed" for having planned to call the police in the face of "her vast tolerance".
Later, as she is walking home with Alfred, Mrs. Higgins' demeanor changes, and she expresses ire and bitterness. She makes Alfred "feel afraid".
Although Mrs. Higgins puts up a good front for people when she needs to, showing amazing versatility and insight as to what behavior will work in different situations, the appearance of strength which she exudes takes a great toll on her emotionally. After the incident at the drugstore, she sits alone in the kitchen, her face "frightened, broken", her hands trembling, and she seems "very old". Clearly Mrs. Higgins is not all she appears to be - tough and capable on the outside, she is desperately fragile on the inside.