How does one feel about Kitty?

In just the beginning of The Return of the Soldier, we have encountered quite a few interesting characters, but what does one think of Kitty in particular? Is the author challenging us to sympathize with her? Kitty Baldry, wife of Chris Baldry, can be described as an upperclass woman with her life revolving around luxury, manners, and the comfort of the aristocratic life.  I do not think Kitty will ever be able to snap out of that lifestyle as proven that not even after the death of her child. This is why at this point in the novel I do not find her a sympathetic character and do not sympathize when her husband does not recognize her.

The author emphasizes society, like Kitty, that stayed back during WWI because their viewpoints do not change like a soldier’s viewpoints do. Their lifestyles remain relatively the same, while soldiers have been wounded with what they’ve seen.  Kitty is stuck in the mentality of making herself seem nice, important, and trying so hard to please others. She says, “I specially want to be kind to people while Chris is away. One wants to deserve well of Heaven” (pg 52). By those statements it becomes more clear to the reader that Kitty is self-seeking and wants to do life for the well-being of her, not because she actually cares for others. We have to remember that Chris has gone through a traumatic period in his life. He no longer sees the world like Kitty does, it is no longer about luxuries and what others think of him; he has experienced one of the worst wars humanity has ever known. A class system does not mean much to him. His perspective of everyday life is not the same anymore. The life he is used to now is not the life she is used to and she clearly does not seem to understand. When a soldier, in this case her husband, returns from war, the reader would think that a wife would be so attentive and give full attention to him. War is not something to brush off, but Kitty once again still has to make his arrival about her. Being worried and stuck in the mentality that appearance and class are still all that matter, she greets her husband in an extravagant unnecessary way. She restored her wedding dress wearing it with pearls around her throat and lets a longer chain of diamonds droop (pg 66). Chris not only arrives to a new surprising home, “up here …in this old place…how one hears the pines… this house is different” (pg 65), but thinks of another woman when he sees his wife.

The way Chris reacts to all the change around him since his arrival shows that his lifestyle has drastically changed and no longer has the ego of Kitty. Kitty in the mind of the child does not seem to have it and leaves “like a child who hasn’t enjoyed a party” (pg 71). How does one sympathize with acts like those?

 

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