Character Sketch of Mrs Dorling from The Address

In Marga Minco’s poignant short story “The Address,” Mrs. Dorling stands as a stark counterpoint to the narrator’s grief and yearning for home. She embodies the moral ambiguity war brings, revealing a character sculpted by self-preservation and opportunistic pragmatism. This sketch delves into the layers of Mrs. Dorling’s complex persona, exploring her actions, motivations, and the lingering questions she leaves behind.

Quick Overview:

  • Opportunistic Neighbor: Exploits the chaos of war to acquire the narrator’s mother’s belongings and home.
  • Callous Demeanor: Displays no empathy towards the narrator’s loss and trauma, focusing instead on personal gain.
  • Master of Denial: Feigns ignorance and rewrites history to justify her actions.
  • Obsessed with Materialism: Values possessions over human connection, clinging to acquired objects as trophies.
  • Vulnerable Underneath: Hints of insecurity and fear surface in her defensiveness and need for control.
  • A Symbol of Moral Gray Areas: Represents the ethical dilemmas war unleashes and the choices people make to survive.

The Opportunist in Sheep’s Clothing:

Mrs. Dorling’s first encounter with the narrator is shrouded in deception. She wears the borrowed green cardigan, a tangible symbol of her opportunistic acquisition of the narrator’s mother’s belongings. Her initial feigned warmth quickly crumbles under the weight of the narrator’s questions, revealing a callous pragmatist who sees the war as a chance to improve her own circumstances.

Empathy Lost in the Fog of War:

While the narrator grapples with the trauma of her mother’s disappearance and the loss of her home, Mrs. Dorling remains unmoved. She shows no remorse for her actions, instead justifying them with flimsy excuses and minimizing the narrator’s pain. This emotional disconnect underscores the ethical wasteland war creates, where survival often trumps compassion.

A Master of Rewriting History:

Mrs. Dorling’s memory is conveniently selective. She claims ignorance of any promises made to the narrator’s mother, conveniently erasing the past to fit her present reality. This deliberate rewriting of history exposes a deeper insecurity, a need to justify her actions even in the face of moral ambiguity.

Material Possessions as Shields:

Mrs. Dorling’s attachment to the narrator’s mother’s belongings goes beyond mere practicality. They become symbols of her own power and control, a tangible reminder of her ability to navigate the chaos of war. This obsession with material possessions reveals a deeper emptiness, a hollowness that material wealth cannot fill.

Vulnerability Beneath the Facade:

Despite her steely exterior, glimpses of vulnerability flicker through Mrs. Dorling’s defenses. Her defensiveness, her need to control the narrative, and her quick dismissal of the narrator’s emotions betray a fear of facing the true cost of her actions. Perhaps, under the surface of self-preservation, lies a buried guilt that she desperately tries to ignore.

A Symbol of Moral Complexity:

Mrs. Dorling is not simply a villain, but a complex character reflecting the moral gray areas war throws people into. Her actions raise uncomfortable questions about survival, responsibility, and the choices we make in the face of unimaginable circumstances. Does war absolve us of empathy? Can opportunism ever be justified by self-preservation? These are the questions Mrs. Dorling forces us to confront, leaving us with a lingering discomfort that mirrors the narrator’s own struggle for closure.


Mrs. Dorling remains an enigma, a portrait of human resilience painted with the dark strokes of self-interest and pragmatism. In her, we see the devastating impact of war on the human psyche, the choices it forces us to make, and the moral ambiguities it leaves behind. While the narrator ultimately finds solace in reclaiming her mother’s memory, Mrs. Dorling’s image continues to haunt the story, a chilling reminder of the complexities of survival and the enduring scars of loss.

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