I have read the short story by Kipling and I can say that, while reading the incipit, it was somehow difficult for me to have a precise idea of the character of Mary. Indeed, the initial details about this figure contribuite to creating an image of this character as someone who lives her life passively, unscattered by the events of life, almost detatched from her own personality: as my colleagues have mentioned, she actually seems to have no personality at all: "Mary was not young, and though her speech was as colourless as her eyes or her hair, she was never shocked […] she had no enemies; provoked no jealousy even among the plainest; neither gossip nor slander had ever been traced to her".
It seemed to me that Mary lives her life following a routine of thought which does not allow feelings to be taken into account, in order to favour a totally rational and controlled way of thinking: when Miss Fowler asks her "what do you ever think of, Mary?", expecting the woman to share some details about her private ideas on her life, Mary answers back by mentioning the tasks that she has to carry out for Wyndham, stating that she has no imagination to picture her ideal life.
As a matter of fact, several times during the narration Mary is associated with or called names that refer to her as less than human: "her underlip caught up by one faded canine, brows knit and nostrils wide". These references throughout the text clearly hint at Mary as someone who, just like animals, "never had a voice".
As the narration goes on, Mary's passivity and stiffness, together with her usual approach to distressful events of trying not to be emotionally involved (she "did not dwell on these things"), are considerably challenged.
The first sign of change can be detected, in my opinion, right after the death of Whyndham. While Mary feels it would be natural to cry for the death of a family member, she notices her emotions to be somehow "stuck" and unable to be expressed: when Miss Fowler asks Mary "have you cried yet?", the woman answers "I can't. It only makes me angry with the Germans". Even though Mary is not able to get in touch with her feelings, her approach to the events changes when she has to burn the object which once belonged to Wyndham; in that case, Mary finds herself thinking about the connection all the objects had with the guy, almost giving this action of burning things a cerimonial feeling: "The shrubbery was filling with twilight by the time she had completed her arrangements and sprinkled the sacrificial oil […] she lit the match that would burn her heart to ashes".
The climax and break of Mary's passive way of thinking can be detected at the end of the short story, where the character finally faces her interior problems: if on the one hand Mary admitts that her own path in life does not resemble the stereotypical path women were supposed to undertake at the end of the 19th century ("a woman's business was to make a happy home for – for a husband and children"), on the other hand she realises that a woman who had missed this one life could still be useful and have a purpose. This is why, in my opinion, Mary tries to find courage after her small epiphany by saying "Go on […] that isn't the end".