The Charwoman’s Daughter

Title: The Charwoman’s Daughter

Author: James Stephens

Publish Date: 1912

Genre: Fiction

Page Length: Unknown


The Charwoman’s Daughter, written by James Stephens in 1912, is a work of fiction that provides glimpses into the life of Mary Makebelieve, the main character. This 11th-grade level summary aims to objectively outline the plot, characters, themes, and key aspects of the book.

Plot Summary:

The story is divided into three parts, each depicting different stages of Mary’s life. The first part introduces us to Mary as a child growing up in Dublin, where she lives with her mother, who works as a charwoman. Mary’s father, a seaman, is often absent from their lives. The chapter primarily explores Mary’s vivid imagination and her encounters with magical and mythical beings, which she uses to escape from her challenging reality.

In the second part, Mary has grown into a young woman and embarks on various odd jobs to make a living. She works as a servant for the Grogans, a wealthy family. Mary’s interactions with other characters at the Grogans’ house, such as the cook, the gardener, and the Grogan children, highlight the stark contrasts between social classes and expose the injustice and inequality faced by lower-class individuals.

Subsequently, Mary moves on to work at the Convent School, where she acts as a caretaker and develops a deep, platonic friendship with a fellow worker named Peter. This section delves into the emotional bond between Mary and Peter, shedding light on their shared struggles and the solace they find in each other’s presence.

The final part of the novel brings Mary to London, where she works in another household. During her time in the city, Mary encounters various characters, some of whom she perceives as helpful and supportive, while others reveal a darker side to humanity. This section explores themes of trust and betrayal, exposing the complexity of human relationships and the challenges faced by individuals living on the margins of society.

Character Analysis:

Mary Makebelieve: The protagonist, Mary, is portrayed as a dreamy and imaginative girl who uses her fantasies to cope with the hardships of her life. As she grows older, Mary navigates the realities of poverty and inequality with resilience and a desire for personal growth.

Mary’s Mother: Mary’s hardworking mother is a charwoman, struggling to make ends meet. Though she is absent for much of the story, her influence is felt in Mary’s determination to improve her circumstances.

Peter: A fellow worker at the Convent School, Peter becomes Mary’s close confidante and source of emotional support. Their friendship offers solace amidst their shared struggles.


Imagination and Escapism: Mary’s vibrant imagination serves as an escape from the harsh realities of her life. Through her fantasies, she finds solace and beauty in an otherwise challenging existence.

Social Class and Inequality: The novel explores the stark contrast between different social classes and the resulting injustices faced by individuals on the lower rungs of society. Mary’s experiences highlight the barriers faced by those attempting to rise above their circumstances.

Friendship and Solidarity: Mary’s relationships with Peter and other characters demonstrate the importance of friendship and mutual support in navigating adversity. These relationships provide comfort and strength in times of difficulty.


The Charwoman’s Daughter provides readers with a glimpse into the social realities of early 20th century Dublin and London, shedding light on the struggles faced by individuals living in poverty. Through Mary’s story, the novel explores themes of inequality, imagination, and the importance of human connection. While the plot captivates readers with its engaging narrative, the book also serves as a social commentary, prompting discussions surrounding social class, justice, and resilience.

In an academic tone, this summary objectively presents the essential details of the book, allowing students to understand the plot, characters, themes, and broader significance of The Charwoman’s Daughter without introducing any personal biases or false information.