The Handkerchief is a story of a family that is torn apart by the mother's absence. The family was well before the mother's sister had become ill. She had no choice but to go because the sister had no one else to take care of her. The husband did not like the idea, but she said, "It's always like this. I"ve devoted eighteen years to you-without complaint, without demands. I"m not made out of stone. I have feelings too." As she speaks, she shows the reader their relationship was already becoming bitter. This was a doorway for her to leave even though she had children, she was not content. The mother was looking for happiness.
When the mother arrived at the train station she had told the children that she would be back in one month. Before she had left she gave Benji, one of her sons a handkerchief to wipe away his tears. He loved the handkerchief because it had his mother's scent, and he could feel her in the presence. The one month arrived and she still did not arrive. Mary the eldest was taking care of the house and making sure she was getting the job done right. She had dinner everyday at five thirty and the house would be cleaner than ever. George who was older than Benji would just follow the directions of what Mary would tell him. Out of the three children Benji was the most affected by the mother's absence. He was hurting and angry that his mother was not there. When the father was reading the letter to the children to let them know that the mother was not going to be coming back for awhile he was depressed and just kept to himself. The family was falling apart.
With mama not being around and living her life it seems she does not miss her family. In her letters she just compliments Mary on how she is so responsible. She did not mention to her family how much she missed them and so forth. During this time Benji's handkerchief was changing. The smell was starting to evaporate and his world was changing.