Life of Ma Parker: Summary & 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.

''Life of Ma Parker'' is a short story written by Katherine Mansfield. It is a story about loss and overwhelming emotion. In this lesson we will cover the summary and analysis of this story.


Have you ever had one of those days that you just couldn't deal with life any longer? You need a break and to be left alone? Ma Parker has one of those days, brought on by a tragedy. Read on and find out what has happened to her and how she deals with a day like this.


Ma Parker works for a literary man. She cleans his house once a week, which he makes a point to dirty. He asks her how her grandson is, to which she replies that he died the previous day. The man offers his condolences awkwardly and Ma Parker continues to work.

She is an old woman who has had a hard life. She was born in Stratford-on-Avon where her life was very restrictive. The same place Shakespeare was born, but she only hears of his name after she leaves the town. Then she is sent to a doctor's house as a maid. There she meets and marries a baker and has thirteen children, of which seven die. Then her husband dies, and she raises her remaining six children alone. To add to her hardship, her sister-in-law moves in, injures her spine, and ends up paralyzed. She now has to take care of her on top of the six children. Two of her daughters ran away, two sons emigrated, and one son joined the army. Her last daughter, Ethel, is a widow but also gave Ma her grandson Lennie. He is sick from the day he is born.

Shakespeare Theater in Stratford-On-Avon

Little Lennie loves his grandmother. She has made sure of this. She always asks him who's boy he is and he always replies ''I'm gran's boy''. Ma Parker can't take her mind off losing Lennie. The whole time she is cleaning, it is all she thinks about. In the middle of her mental agony, the gentleman asks if she has thrown out his one teaspoon of cocoa that he thinks he has stored away. He makes it clear that he may be messy but he knows what's happening in his home. When he leaves, Ma has an overwhelming feeling of sadness. She misses Lennie so much and doesn't understand why a little ''angel'' like him had to suffer. Then her entire life's worth of misery and sadness floods her mind. A bit disoriented, she leaves the house.

Ma Parker is known for having a hard life and a strong personality. She never cries and never complains about the constant physical pain she is in. She is a proud woman and would never let anyone see her weakness. At this moment though, Lennie's death has caused too many feelings to surface. She suddenly realizes that she needs to let it out, she needs to cry it out. But she doesn't want anyone to see. She looks for a place to be left alone. She can't go home where Ethel is, she can't sit on the stairs in public. She wonders if there's any place in the world she could ''cry out - at last''. As she stands there and it begins to rain, she realizes that ''There was nowhere''.

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