Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Among the leading families in New York in the 1850’s, none is more correct or more highly regarded than the Ralstons. Their ancestors came to America not for religious freedom but for wealth. By the time Delia Lovell marries James Ralston, the Ralstons consider themselves the ruling class, and all their thoughts and actions are dictated by convention. They shun new ideas as they do strange people, and the sons and daughters of the numerous branches of the family marry only the sons and daughters of similar good families.
Delia is conventional and correct by birth as well as by marriage. Before her marriage, she was in love with Clement Spender, a penniless young painter; but since he would not give up his proposed trip to Rome and settle down to a disciplined life in New York, it was impossible for a Lovell to marry him. Against her will, Delia often imagines herself married to Clement, but the image is only momentary, for Delia has no place in her life for strong emotions or great passions. Her life with James and their two children is perfect. She is glad, too, that her cousin, Charlotte Lovell, is going to marry James’s cousin, Joe Ralston, for at one time she feared that Charlotte might never have a suitable proposal.
Charlotte is a strange girl who has become quite prudish in the years since she made her debut. At that time, she was lively and beautiful. Then a sudden illness caused her to go to Georgia for her health. Since her...
(The entire section is 1123 words.)
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