Characters

All the characters in this short story “Noel” by Michael Plemmons are only shortly sketched. The most important ones are Mrs. Overton and Mrs. Hathaway. However, the children and the childless shoppers as collective characters are also important because they illustrate certain typologies, so we will also analyze them.

Mrs. Hathaway

Mrs. Hathaway’s outer characterization informs us that she is an “effective matron”, the woman who is in charge of taking care and supervising the children who are to be rented for Christmas. Given the fact that she resides with the children, we can also assume that she is an employee of Mrs. Overton, who is her boss. 

Inner characterization

The woman’s inner characterization is conveyed through the way she acts with the children and her interactions with Mrs. Overton.

The initial scene in which she seats the children in an orderly manner indicates the woman cares a lot about discipline and order: “Mrs. Hathaway brought the children downstairs single file and seated them on straight-back chairs around the reception room, boy-girl-boy-girl, seventeen in all.” 

Note she is also “fussing over their appearance” which shows her great concern for the ‘items’ (the children) to be sold and attention to details. The way she presents the children to potential clients indicates that she acts like a salesperson: ““Christa is a lovely child, age eight... Melinda has a beautiful singing voice for carols... Stephanie has an exceptionally sweet temperament...”” 

She is also submissive in relation to Mrs. Overton, not daring to contradict her:

Said Mrs. Overton, “I told you about those two pre-teens, didn’t I?”
“Yes, ma’am, you did.”
“Then why did you bring them down with the others?” 

However, the fact that she included in the lot of children two boys who did not have many chances of being rented hints at a certain compassion, although it may also be a hint of her eagerness to have as many children sold as possible and thus, please her employer: ““Well, I was hoping, I guess.” Mrs. Hathaway glanced at her rejected charges. They gazed guiltily into their laps...

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