The Address is the story of betrayal. Mrs. Dorling comes into the life of the narrator’s family, offers to carry all the family possessions but later refuses to give them back.
- Marga Minco – The narrator. She was a girl of fifteen or seventeen.
- Mrs. S – The Narrator’s mother. S may be Suzanne, Susannah, etc.
- Mrs. Dorling – A very wicked, shrewd woman. She visited the narrator’s mother saying that she was her classmate years ago.
Opening – Before the War
- The narrator’s family was Jewish and Hitler was planning to kill all the Jews in Germany, Holland, Austria, etc. It appears that the narrator was away from home.
- We do not know if it was so or not. She offered to help the narrator’s family by carrying their house hold utensils, furniture and all the other valuables.
- In fact she had no intention to help the narrator’s family. All she hoped was that the narrator’s family die in the war and never return.
- The war was over and everyone (except the narrator) in the narrator’s family was either deported (sent out of one’s own country) or killed in the gas chambers.
- When the war was over and the Jews were feeling safe in these countries, Marga (the narrator) returned to her house (which was no more!) and lived in a small hut.
- One day, Marga thought of the woman (Mrs. Dorling) who had taken all her possessions. She remembered her address – 46, Marconi Street.
- Marga went to Marconi Street by train.
Questions & Answers
- Why was the narrator surprised on visiting her home at the wake of the war?
The narrator’s was a Jewish family settled in Netherlands. One day, when she came home, the narrator saw that much of her furniture and crockery was either missing or misplaced. In fact this disorder was caused by Mrs. Dorling, an old friend of her mother who had been shifting the family’s valuables to her home for safe-keeping but the narrator was unaware of it.
- Under what circumstances, was the author’s family forced to allow the possessions to be carried away?”
The author’s family was under the fear of war. Every second was unpredictable as they could be forced to move from their house. At a time like this, Mrs. Dorling, an old acquaintance/friend of the author’s mother, turned up and offered to ‘help’ them by keeping most of their precious belongings safely in her house. So, in order to save their possessions, the author’s mother agreed to send all their possessions with Mrs. Dorling.
- Why was the narrator’s mother glad to have Mrs. Dorling to help the family?
The narrator’s mother was an innocent woman. To her, Mrs. Dorling’s offer to help the family by carrying their valuables to her own home was a blessing. She believed that Mrs. Dorling would return the family’s valuables once the war ended. Besides, the two of them had been friends years ago so trusting an old friend at the time of great crisis seemed appropriate.
- Why did the author first hesitate to claim her belongings from Mrs. Dorling?
When the war was over and the narrator began to feel a little secure, she felt like missing her family belongings. On a second thought, she began to suspect that the presence of her family articles would remind her of her dear ones who were no more with her so she hesitated to claim those articles from Mrs. Dorling’s house. Besides, she lived in a poor room that looked the oddest place to accommodate her expensive possessions.
Next – The First Visit
- The narrator traces Mrs. Dorling’s – No. 46 – address to claim her family’s property.
- Mrs. Dorling refuses to give away.
- Mrs. Dorling says she doesn’t recognise the narrator but the narrator recognizes her.
- It was now evident that Mrs. Dorling had betrayed the narrator’s mother.
- Marga was terribly pinched, hurt, disappointed and betrayed.
- She was turning away to go when someone appeared at the window. Probably it was Mrs. Dorling’s daughter. She was asking, “Mom, who’s there?” and Mrs. Dorling gives a discouraging reply.
- That was how the first visit ended.
Questions & Answers
- What for did the narrator ring the doorbell?
The narrator rang the doorbell to meet Mrs. Dorling, one of her mother’s old friends. She wished to talk to her and get her household things that the lady had brought home before the war had begun.
- Why was Mrs. Dorling cautious while opening the door?
Mrs. Dorling had committed the crime of misappropriating the narrator’s household things a few years ago. Though she had hoped that the war would uproot the entire family, she had feared one day someone from the family could turn up and claim the things that she kept at her home, hence this caution.
- For a while the narrator thought she had rung the wrong bell but soon her doubts vanished. Why did the narrator initially doubt that she had made an error? How did she know that she had rung the right bell?
The narrator had been absolutely certain about the address of Mrs. Dorling, Number 46, Marconi Street and she had expected the good lady waiting for her arrival to return her household things but what happened was one that was never imagined. Seeing Mrs. Dorling’s hostile behavior and her admitting that she didn’t recognize her visitor, Margo doubted if she had rung the wrong bell but soon her apprehensions died away and she clearly saw that she had the right address. Mrs. Dorling’s asking, “Have you come back?” dispelled her doubts. Her doubts further melted away when she noticed that Mrs. Dorling had put on her mother’s cardigan.
- How did Mrs. Dorling behave when the narrator visited her address?
When the narrator visited Mrs. Dorling’s address and informed the lady that she was Mrs. S’ daughter, at first Mrs. Dorling behaved as if she didn’t recognize her and tried to avoid her. Dorling said that she had hoped no one from the author’s house would come to claim her possessions.
- Why did the narrator return to her poor dwelling without claiming her family’s possessions from Mrs. Dorling
The author’s mother gave Mrs. Dorling’s ‘Address’ to the author to re-acquire their belongings back when the terrible situation of war gets back to normal. For the frustration of the author, as she reaches the concerned location, she was greeted by the rather hostile and ill-behaved resident of the Address. Mrs. Dorling’s unwillingness to return her belongings was apparently reflected by her attitude. When, the second time she visited that house, she was distressed and regretted her decision of claiming her belongings back and consoled herself to adjust without her precious belongings.
Finally – The Second Visit
- The narrator grew impatient after a while so she decided to visit Mrs. Dorling once again.
- When she rang the bell at house number 46, Mrs. Dorling was away. Mrs. Dorling’s daughter welcomed the narrator.
- The daughter had no idea how her mother had looted the utensils and furniture from the narrator’s house. All that she knew was that her mother had bought these precious antiques on an auction.
- The daughter was proud of the expensive utensils and furniture.
- The narrator decides not to wait for Mrs. Dorling. She leaves the house. She forgets the address.
Questions & Answers
- What were the narrator’s emotions when she stood in the midst of things that once belonged to her?
The first emotions experienced by the the narrator were pain and guilt. As she walked into the living room, she sees all of the belongings with which she had grown up. This drives a pain of loss and pain of separation into her mind. At the same time, she was haunted by a feeling of guilt. She felt guilty of having not cared for the family possessions that used to be hers. She had been asked to mend a cut mark on one of the tables but she had not paid any attention to it. Now, with all her dear possessions owned by a betrayer, the narrator plunges into the depth of guilt.
- Mrs. Dorling is a typical example of betrayal’. Discuss.
Mrs. Dorling possessed a cunning personality polished by the frequent instances of be-fooling people. Her character can be well defined by her practice of using people for her own benefit. Knowing the innocence of the author’s mother, she turned up at the very time when her family was facing hardship. Being into her motive of betrayal, voluntarily or accidently, she offered to carry the precious belongings to her address until the war was over. Willingly, she agreed and then Dorling ‘confiscated’ her possessions, told her children that she bought them, made them feel proud of those things and later, when the rightful owner came to acquire them, turned her down – the end of a well planned scheme.
- Find evidences for the alienation that the narrator suffered in the midst of her belongings.
Evidence can be found in the last sentence of the passage that the element the main character had most likely found the most disturbing was the alienation of all her possessions. Here, in this new home, surrounded by a completely different family, the narrator’s past belongings had become a big part of the lives of other people. They had become a repository of memories and experiences for not only her but for this other family. As a consequence, in the mind of the narrator, her belongings had been transformed because they no longer fit the roles that she had attributed to them growing up. In this new house, they were used in different ways by different people, completely severing the tie that the narrator had had with them.
- Why did the narrator find herself in a room that she knew and didn’t?
When the narrator proceeds to say that she found herself in a room that she both knew and didn’t, she elaborates a bit more on the feeling of apprehension mounting within her. Earlier on in the account, she recalls a conversation she had had with her mother when she first realized that she had been spiriting away most of their belongings to an “old friend”. Her mother then told her the address to which their possessions were being smuggled and that she would do well to remember it. So, when the narrator finally arrived to ascertain the location of her lost belongings, she was met instead with a myriad of recollections of past times spent with others, before the war. She knew all of the material objects that could be found in the room, however, she could no longer recognize the sentimental and historical backgrounds that had once related to them.
- What are the contrasting elements in the characters of Mrs. Dorling and Mrs. S?
The mother of the author, Mrs. S was a lady of simplicity. She didn’t seem to have seen the harsh and cruel side of this two-faced world. She could easily befriend people, and rather more easily, trust them. That’s why she trusted Mrs. Dorling, who was just an acquaintance of her, and allowed her to keep all her precious belongings for the time being. Moreover, she was so kindhearted that she was sympathetic enough for Mrs. Dorling, who had to carry all her heavy articles all alone. In contrast, Mrs. Dorling was an absolute thief, a unique combination of cunningness and betrayal. She cheated Mrs. S and seized her very precious belongings very wittingly. She can be called a perfectionist in this ‘occupation’ of hers.
- Why did the author decide against claiming her family possessions from Dorling?
Having been treated unpleasantly and having noticed the repulsive reaction of Mrs. Dorling in her very first visit, the author developed an awful impression of Mrs. Dorling. On her second visit, the narrator saw how dearly Dorling’s daughter loved those utensils and furniture and how proud she was of possessing them. Moreover, the author was very shocked to see the dreadful way in which her precious possessions were preserved. Also, now, when the author would adoringly look at her belongings, memories of her parents and her near ones’ death, rather than her her childhood’s happy memories, would sprout in her. This made her reluctant to claim her family possessions back from Dorling.
- Justify the title of the story, “The Address.”
The story revolves around the author, who, after a long period of time, has come to her former neighbor, Mrs. Dorling, to claim her possessions back – the possessions that Mrs. Dorling had misappropriated in the pretense of extending help to the narrator’s family at a crucial juncture. Twice the narrator visited this address and returned with a heavy mind and empty hands. Though she found reasons to leave her memorable possessions, it is well expected that the address would again and again return to her mind, throughout her life. Like her mother had once asked her to remember, she would remember this Marconi Street address whenever memories kept coming back. Thus, the address plays the central role in the story hence the title.
Questions for Writing
- Imagine you are Sue, Mrs. Dorling’s daughter. When your mother came home, you told her of Marga Minco’s visit. When your mother heard this, she broke off and told her story of cheating. As Sue, write a letter to Marga Minco, expressing how sorry you are and requesting to take her possessions or stay with you as long as she wished.
- Imagine that you are Marga Minco. After your first visit to Marconi Street, you decided to take law by your side to get your family possessions back. Write a letter to Mrs. Dorling, 46 Marconi Street, Holland, asking her to return your things or be prepared to face trial for fraud and cheating.
Reference to Context
- ‘That’s a nice box.’ I heard my own voice. It was a strange voice. As though each sound was different in this room.
- ‘Oh, you know about them?’ She had turned round and brought me my tea. She laughed. ‘My mother says it is antique. We’ve got lots more.’ She pointed round the room. ‘See for yourself.’
- I had no need to follow her hand. I knew which things she meant. I just looked at the still life over the tea-table. As a child I had always fancied the apple on the pewter plate.
- ‘We use it for everything,’ she said. ‘Once we even ate off the plates hanging there on the wall. I wanted to so much. But it wasn’t anything special.’
- ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘you get so used to touching all these lovely things in the house, you hardly look at them any more. You only notice when something is missing, because it has to be repaired or because you have lent it, for example.’
- Why did the narrator’s voice sound strange to her?
- Why did the narrator not have any need to follow the girl’s hands?
- Again I heard the unnatural sound of my voice and I went on: ‘I remember my mother once asked me if I would help her polish the silver. It was a very long time ago and I was probably bored that day or perhaps I had to stay at home because I was ill, as she had never asked me before. I asked her which silver she meant and she replied, surprised, that it was the spoons, forks and knives, of course. And that was the strange thing, I didn’t know the cutlery we ate off every day was silver.’
- The girl laughed again. ‘I bet you don’t know it is either.’ I looked intently at her. ‘What we eat with?’ she asked. ‘Well, do you know?’ She hesitated. She walked to the sideboard and wanted to open a drawer. ‘I’ll look. It’s in here.’ I jumped up. ‘I was forgetting the time. I must catch my train.’ She had her hand on the drawer. ‘Don’t you want to wait for my mother?’ ‘No, I must go.’ I walked to the door. The girl pulled the drawer open. ‘I can find my own way.’ As I walked down the passage I heard the jingling of spoons and forks.
Text Book Questions
- “Have you come back?” said the woman. “I thought that no one had come back.” Does this statement give some clues about the story? If yes, what is it?”