Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56
54 minutes ago
"[This inability to see into her] only brought me more completely under her power: no matter how empty the adytum, so that the veil be thick enough."
|Hubert is thinking about adventures|
"Although resembling humans in form, they lack a human soul, so to achieve mortality, they must acquire one by marrying a human."When she arrives in New York her guide to society is the rather questionable Mrs. Heeny, a masseuse. Undine and her mother know nothing about old money New York, but under Mrs. Heeny's dubious tutelage, they learn, and Undine learns quicker. Undine captivates Ralph Marvell, the heir to an old money fortune much diminished over the years. Certainly Ralph is more aware of the poetic overtones of the name Undine, though the exact nature of the legend is never mentioned in the novel. Even more than her Romantic name, though, her beauty snares him; that, and the belief she's unformed, and he can do the forming.
The only essential was that he should live 'like a gentleman' -- that is, with a tranquil disdain for mere money-getting, a passive openness to the finer sensations, one or two fixed principles as to the quality of wine, and an archaic probity that had not yet learned to distinguish between private and 'business' honour.This is all pretty much satire to this point, but Ralph Marvell becomes a pretty sympathetic character; he may be a little romantically naive, but does he deserve Undine?
"And is Undine one of the exceptions?"
Her companion took the shot with a smile. "No -- she's a monstrously perfect result of the system: the completest proof of its triumph. It's Ralph who's the victim and the exception."And so it proves.
But under all the dazzle a tiny black cloud remained. She had learned that there was something she could never get, something that neither beauty nor millions could ever buy for her. She could never be an Ambassador's wife; and as she advanced to welcome her first guests she said to herself that it was the one part she was really made for.Ha! So the scheming provincial gets her comeuppance anyway. But in a tiny way. And why was she divorced? Because her father compelled her to get divorced; back then Elmer Moffatt seemed unsuitable, though we've come to see they're all too suitable to each other. To what extent is Undine even the author of her own fate? If she'd stayed married to Elmer, as she wanted, she could have been an ambassador's wife! That is, if Elmer had still succeeded, dragging along the spendthrift Undine. And Undine had acquired the tone to be an ambassador's wife as the wife of Elmer Moffatt.