1883 is as impactful a journey as any put to television in our modern era. Which makes the lines Faith Hill delivers as matriarch Margaret Dutton all the more meaningful – especially when looking back at the growth of her character. Before you dive in, be warned of significant spoilers for 1883 ahead.
As 1883 starts out, Margaret is very much a 19th century housewife who’s entire life has been upended by her “dreamer” of a husband, James (Tim McGraw). But as Hill and 1883‘s script demonstrate, Margaret is destined to become so much more than what the pressures of 19th century society sought to allow.
Best of Faith Hill as Margaret Dutton in ‘1883’s Premiere Episodes
In Episode 1, her daughter, Elsa (Isabel May), is beyond distraught with their place in “coach” at the back of the train. “Some day I’ll only ride in the front of the train,” Elsa sneers at her mother.
“That’s a child’s goal. A woman’s goal is to never ride train again because she has a home she never wants to leave,” Margaret replies.
This mother-daughter relationship evolves rapidly through 1883. And by Episode 2, Elsa is becoming a cowboy as Margaret is asking her husband:
“How am I supposed to make her into a lady when you keep treating her like a man?”
“There’s plenty of ladies in this world. Pretty short on decent men, though,” James smiles.
“How am I supposed to respond to that!?”
And when it comes to her sister, Claire’s (Dawn Olivieri) exhausting pessimism:
“Honestly, Claire, I don’t have the energy or the interest to continue this conversation.”
But as Claire escalates a situation with passing outlaws, Margaret is forced to intervene, responding perfectly to the bandit leader who suggests he’s ready to take advantage of Claire.
“It’ll be the last thing you do,” Margaret spits from behind tears and the barrel of her shotgun.
“There’s a dozen guns with sixty bullets between ’em out here, and you only got two,” the bandit replies.
“And they’re both for you.”
‘1883’ Episode 3, “The River” – Episode 4, “The Crossing”
“Tired of getting my teeth rattled by this wagon. If my choices are to sit on this log, or sit in a saddle, I’m sittin’ in a saddle.”
“How am I supposed to sneak up on somethin’ with a 5-year-old?” James asks.
“Teach him to be quiet. Or find a dumb deer.”
And as Elsa tries to tell her mother how to saddle one of their horses, Margaret replies:
“Girl, I’ve forgotten more about horses than you’ll ever know.”
Once their first river crossing comes to pass, Margaret tells James:
“This is harder than you said it’d be… You should’ve explained what ‘everything’ meant.”
Episode 5, ‘The Fangs of Freedom’
“You’ve seen enough farm animals to know how babies are made, Elsa.”
1883 Episode 5 busts the doors wide open on Margaret’s relationship with her daughter, giving Faith Hill some of her best lines of Season 1:
” I envy you… Becoming a woman out here. No rules, no worries or whispers about what you should be. There’s no such thing as freedom, Elsa. Don’t let anyone tell you there is. There’s laws, there’s rules, there’s customs, responsibilites everywhere. And the more people you cram together, the more rules they’ll be. I don’t know what life is like in Oregon. But there’ll be rules there, too.
“This trail, this is as free as you’ll ever be. The only rules you need to follow are the ones in your heart.”
“You’d better be careful. You’re a woman now, ain’t yah? And woman to woman you better be careful. It takes years to make something of your life. And one decision can change the course of it forever. And we don’t know if that decision is the one that’s going sink us until we make it. So you better be very, very careful what you choose. Freedom is anything but, Elsa. And every choice has fangs, do you understand me?”
“If you have a child, you’ll raise it. I will not do it for you. I’m having a hard enough time raising my own as you can clearly see. And if you decide to do it again, do it outside of earshot of the damn camp.”
“Just once I’d love to see the world through your eyes. But one day you’ll see it through mine, though. And it breaks my heart.”
‘1883’ Episode 6, ‘Boring the Devil’
“Where we’re going… It better be paradise, ’cause it’s costing us a daughter. And if you ask me it’s a shitty trade. She killed a man! And she was about to kill another. I look into her eyes, and the person staring back at me I don’t recognize. I’ll never forgive you for this!” an intoxicated Margaret screams at her husband.
“You don’t forgive me? I don’t forgive me,” James replies.
Episode 7, ‘Lightning Yellow Hair’
As their company’s cook, Cookie (James Jordan) swears up an F-word laden storm in front of tiny John, Margaret slaps him straight before delivering one of her best lines of 1883:
“You use that word in front of my child again, I’m gonna stab you with this f***ing fork.”
Episode 8, “The Weep of Surrender”
In Season 1, Episode 8, Elsa asks her mother if she wants to go back to Denver as Shea (Sam Elliott) and James decide the pioneers’ fate. But Margaret knows there’s no changing her husband’s mind. And she knows that no matter where she and her daughter end up, it’ll be right back to “a woman’s role” in the 19th century; leading to one of her best quotes in 1883:
“You know why he lets you run wild, don’t you? He knows dresses are your future. No matter where we go you’re wearing dresses and sweating over a garden. And raising babies, and swallowing every dream you’ve ever had. ‘Cause that’s all the world wants from you. We may find some place where we can hold the world off for a while. But they’ll find us there, too, and bring all their rules with it.”
‘1883’s Final Episodes Showcase a Mother & Father’s Worst Fear
“She’s the light of my life. And she’s my soul. But she’s going to die,” James sobs as he and Margaret come to terms with Elsa’s fate.
Margaret smacks her husband. “How f*cking dare you!? I will not lose a child!”
“She is going to die. And it’s going to cut us in two. If we don’t accept it now, she’s going to die in some fort, with some doctor, who’s gonna cut her open so bad she can’t see straight. And we will have robbed her. She needs to see every sunrise. And every sunset. And we will lie to her. We will tell her she’s fine. And we will let her look at this world with those big dreamer eyes… Until they can’t see no more.”
“Then what’re we gonna do? She’s gonna be another cross on a trail that we don’t visit. Ten years from now, it’s just gone!” Margaret cries.
“Our wagon drives over… Where we bury her is where we stay. That is our home.”
“Not here. Not in this place.”
“No. Not this place. I will find a place. By God I will find a place,” James promises his wife. And together, they accept Elsa’s fate – and their own.
For more of the best quotes from 1883, check out our other character breakdowns next:
- Sam Elliott’s Best Quotes as Shea Brennan So Far
- Tim McGraw’s Best Quotes as James Dutton So Far
- Best Elsa Dutton Narration Quotes from Season 1
- LaMonica Garrett’s Best Quotes as Thomas So Far
1883 streams exclusively on Paramount Plus.