Will Mr. Hat and Mr. Blanket please stand up?

Objects and possessions hold a role almost equivalent to characters in “Return of the Soldier”. One of the most notable items that receives references repeatedly is the ugly cheap feathered hat worn by Margaret. It comes to symbolize the poverty and uncaring unfashionableness of Margaret, and although at one point Jenny even tries to preen it with her hands into a socially acceptable article, she finally admits it is an “inoperable case” and gives up (p106). Margaret is unaware of her ugly clothing, and even if it were pointed out to her, she would probably not care, for she does not have the means to do anything about it. Not only is she modest and humble, but as Jenny pointed out, the clothes in fact serve to put her beautiful personality and character in the best light. Like a rough frame around a masterpiece, Margaret has no finery to distract “from the message of her soul”(102).

Another object that obtains profundity is the blanket on which Margaret and Chris sit peacefully in the woods. The fact that Margaret spread it so carefully “smooth and comfortable” with her “dreadful hands” indicates that she can create kindness and loveliness even though she is poor, rough from work, and not pretty. Her devoted attention to the comfort of Chris is an indication of her golden personality, and it further impresses on Jenny that Kitty and Jenny herself are not and never were the sole providers of Chris’s happiness, as previously thought. This revelation probably continues to strike a dissonant chord on Jenny’s peace of mind as well as shaking her conception of her place in the world- no longer does she have a monopoly on his affections and comfort.

The blanket further symbolizes a tiny island of happiness, security, and beauty in the troubled world. Chris and Margaret are briefly recapturing the honeyed bliss of youth and true love. On their little island they are separate from reality and untroubled by the truth. Jenny notes that on their blanket they “sat thus englobed in peace as in a crystal sphere”(100). Her resulting envy of this admirable untroubled bliss is so strong that she is “forced to go and sit down on the the rug” beside them”(102). Although she doesn’t belong there, Margaret allows this with kind humility. Thus finally Jenny is able to step into the other world she’s observed and looked down upon for so long- she used to see peasants outside her gates sit on blankets and nap in just such a fashion. This symbolizes her final steps into empathy and self-awareness, which morphed throughout the novel from proud delight in wealth to scorning her selfish lifestyle and admiring the good at heart.

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