She was “the only woman he ever loved” and she now has a character profile on 17th Street. Following from Japheth Dury’s character profile being added to the supporting characters page of the full character list earlier this month, Mary Palmer’s character profile has now been completed and can also be found on the supporting characters page. In addition, the spoiler warning feature has been added to the profiles that appear on the main characters page of the full character list.
Appears in The Alienist
Mary Palmer, an attractive young woman afflicted with classic motor aphasia (characterised by the extreme difficulty speaking even though comprehension abilities are preserved) and agraphia (an inability to express thoughts in writing), is employed as Dr. Laszlo Kreizler’s housekeeper for the duration of The Alienist. We learn early in the novel that Dr. Kreizler had first discovered Mary at the Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island where she had been involuntarily committed following the murder of her father in which she had chained him to his bed and set the house alight. Although Mary had been considered idiotic from early childhood due to her communication deficits, she appeared to have been cared for adequately by her family and had been taught to perform menial household duties as she was growing up. The murder of her father, a respectable schoolteacher, when she was only seventeen years old had therefore been considered an act of insanity, and she had been committed to the asylum as a result.
During his early consultations with Mary, Dr. Kreizler was struck by the lack of the symptoms she displayed for the only psychological disorder he felt constituted true insanity (dementia praecox, now known as schizophrenia), and he quickly determined her true diagnosis of motor aphasia and agraphia. After spending a number of weeks gaining Mary’s trust and developing a means of rudimentary communication with her, he went on to discover the shocking truth that her father had been sexually assaulting her for years prior to his murder. When the subsequent legal review of her case resulted in Mary walking free from the asylum, she managed to communicate to Dr. Kreizler that she would make a good employee for his household staff, and as her communication deficits would make it difficult for her to find employment elsewhere, the doctor agreed to take her on.