Life of Ma Parker Character Analysis

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

We will be covering the character analysis of the short story 'Life of Ma Parker' by Katherine Mansfield. In this lesson, we get to know a little more about the character's background, personality, and traits.

My Fair Lady

Have you ever watched the old musical My Fair Lady? The opening scene of this story is a bit like a scene from that movie. A snobby, rich young man who thinks no end of himself attempts to converse with a poor, uneducated but hardworking woman with a terrible accent. Find out what the characters are like in the short story, 'Life of Ma Parker'.

Life of Ma Parker

Life of Ma Parker is about a housekeeper named Mrs. Parker, affectionately called Ma Parker. She is overcome with remorse and sadness while cleaning the house of a young literary man. Three main characters stand out in this story: Ma Parker herself, her grandson Lennie, and the young gentleman.

The Literary Gentleman

This man is referred to as a gentleman in the story because he is posh and well-educated. He has a housekeeper at a young age, which implies he is wealthy enough to afford one. Even though he is in a higher class than Ma Parker, he lacks empathy. While he pities Ma Parker, the young man is too aloof to understand the reality of her life. He is also ungrateful for all the work Ma Parker does for him. He is very untidy and awkward when it comes to showing empathy. Three quotes best describe this man:

1. ''You simply dirty everything you've got, get a hag in once a week to clean up, and the thing's done.'' This is how he describes his weekly upkeep of his flat to his friends. The kitchen is so dirty that the author jokes it would take an entire book to describe it.

2. ''I hope the funeral went off all right.'' He thinks that funerals are somehow ceremonious for low-class people like Ma Parker's family. It shows that he is a bit uncouth about the ways of lower class people.

3. ''It must be rather nice to be married to a baker! Such a clean trade''. He believes that Ma Parker's husband's trade was clean whereas, in reality, the man died from his lungs being filled with flour. The gentleman clearly has no clue about the lives of people in the trade business. Again, it shows he is cut off from the at times distressing realities faced by lower class people.

High-class visitors observe a factory worker. Life of Ma Parker highlights the divide between social classes. 1920

Mrs. (Ma) Parker

It is clear that Ma Parker has a very hard background. From the time she was young until the present, she has experienced many tragedies in her tough life. 7 of her 13 children died, as did her husband; leaving her with 6 young ones to care for herself. 1920's England was an especially rough period for lower class people. They had no proper access to medical care and were expected to work from a young age in occupations that were often hazardous to their health. For example, Ma Parker's husband died from breathing in flour when he worked as a baker.

Ma's lower social status is reflected in her manner of speaking. She says things like ospital, Beg parding, sir and Gran ain't got no pennies. ., which demonstrates her lack of formal education. The most prominent trait of Ma Parker is her restraint. At no moment in her life did she ever allow anyone to witness her crying or in pain. For someone who has had a life as horrible as hers, that is quite outstanding.

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