In the story "The Orchard Walls," the author, Ruth Rendell, introduces the character of Mrs. Thorn. Throughout the story, Mrs. Thorn plays the role of many parts, some of which include friend to the main girl of the story, a teacher of new hobbies, and the rule enforcer. But, perhaps the most influential part portrayed is that of law enforcer. Mrs.
Thorn is not a static character. The readers can clearly notice the significant changes she goes through from being the hospitable woman of the house, to a rule enforcer, to the cruel and unforgiving individual. As more of the story is revealed, Mrs. Thorn proves herself to be a cold hearted and stern woman who only cares for protocol and the family's status. At the beginning of the story, Mrs. Thorn may be best described as hospitable.
She enacts all the actions of a dutiful housekeeper, and when the girl arrives, she feeds her currant bread, scones, and walnut cake. Afterwards, the girl describes her as somewhat of a friend. She claims that it was Mrs. Thorn who "took me shopping with her to Ipswich, who talked to me while she did the baking, who knitted and taught me to knit." In fact, the girl claims that she was "with her most of the time." And we are told that if it had not been for Mrs. Thorn's company, the main character "might have looked forward more eagerly to her parent's fortnightly visits than she did." But as more of the story is revealed, so is the character of Mrs. Thorn.
As the story moves along, Mrs. Thorn becomes more and more of a rule enforcer. About midway through the story, we start to see a change in Mrs. Thorn's attitude. When the girl asks if the cherry wallpaper was put up because that room had no view of the cherry trees, Mrs. Thorn replies, "that the idea would be a rather whimsical one," almost cold -heartedly.
Later, when the girl asked who slept in the room with the cherry tree, Mrs. Thorn responds "your auntie." The girl claims that "Mrs. Thorn was always to refer to Ella in this way. She was always a stickler for respect." When the girl expressed her feeling towards the cherry tree and how she thought it away to climb down the window, Mrs.
Thorn scornfully replied that "Philip would have done no such thing; he wasn't that kind of boy." Later, Mrs. Thorn forbids the girl to turn cartwheels around Daniel, even though she wore shorts. And when the girl wanted to ride the bicycle, Mrs. Thorn alleged that, it wasn't "ladylike" and that while the girl was living with her, she was not permitted to ride it.
It is particularly significant that Mrs. Thorn would not allow the riding of the bicycle. It instills and acknowledges the fact that Mrs. Thorn was an old-fashioned woman who cared more for her reputation than for the girl's enjoyment.
The last few pages are clearly the harshest of Mrs. Thorn's personality. When the girl mistakes the scarecrow for a body, Mrs. Thorn becomes outraged and screamed at the girl, calling her disgusting. Mrs. Thorn, who had felt she had been disgraced, immediately arranged for the girl to be taken home.
According to the girl, "Mrs. Thorn was a changed woman, hard and dour." Later, the girl claimed that Mrs. Thorn's attitude toward her was as if she "were some sort of psychopath." Mrs. Thorn un forgivingly claimed that she would tell the girl's parents exactly what she had done and how she "insulted her auntie." And with icy indignation, Mrs.
Thorn charged that she would not have the girl staying with them anymore. This statement is powerful not only because it shows Mrs. Thorn's unwillingness to forgive, but also because it shows that she was a hard woman who was not open to negotiations. There are many ideas that one can argue about Mrs.
Thorn. One can say she was a sweet old lady who was willing to take in a refugee. Or, you could even say that she was simply a conservative. But the one thing that you cannot over look is the fact that she was unwilling to forgive.
This may have been permissible if the person was a stranger, but the girl was practically her family. Mrs. Thorn's need for protocol and social acceptance ultimately hardened her heart and caused her to cast away her family.