The mother

Outer characterization

Victor's mother is another important character in “The Terrapin” by Patricia Highsmith. The mother’s outer characterization reveals that she is “Hungarian with some French”, is separated from Victor’s father who lives in France, and is a children’s books illustrator but “she hadn’t sold any illustrations for books for years and years”.

The fact that she and Victor used to live in a three-room apartment on Riverside Drive but moved to a one-room apartment on Third Avenue suggests that the mother wants to pass as middle-class, as she prefers living in a smaller apartment in a better area.

The story reveals that the mother’s income comes from Victor’s father who is wealthier: “Their income came from his father who was a wealthy businessman in France…”

Physically, the mother has “black curly head”, “mascaraed eyes”, “jeweled hands”, and a “flesh colored dress” which suggest she is fashionable and cares about her image.

The way she speaks suggests that her native language is French, but she mostly speaks English to Victor with a strong accent: “ ‘Ugh! That  stee-enk!”, “ ‘You are seeck. Psychologically seeck.’ ”, “ ‘Ç'est une terrapene! Pour un ragoût!’ ”.

The mother’s inner characterization is constructed using Victor’s perspective, through her actions, attitude, and speech.

Treating Victor like a small child

The mother’s inner characterization reveals that she treats Victor like a small child although he is eleven years old. This is suggested using Victor’s perspective: “His mother wanted him to stay about six years old, forever, all his life.”

Several of the mother’s actions indicate the same attitude. For example, the mother dresses Victor like a child and asks him to say the days of the week or learn children’s poems: “ ‘Can you say the days of the week?’ ”;  “…wanted him to look ‘French’ and made him wear short shorts and stockings…”; “She was making him memorize every poem in A Child’s Garden of Verses.”

Although she is aware Victor likes psychology books, she does not want the boy to read such books, which indicates she does not encourage Victor to develop intellectually: “His mother did not like him to read psychology books, but Victor loved them…”

Furthermore, she also tells Victor directly that he acts like a child:...

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