Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Aubrey Tanqueray, a wealthy widower, is to be married to Paula Ray, a woman younger than he and of questionable character. Aubrey’s first wife did not contribute a great deal to his happiness. A daughter, Ellean, was born to the Tanquerays shortly before the first Mrs. Tanqueray died of a fever, the only warmth, in the opinion of one of Aubrey’s friends, ever to have come to the woman’s body. Ellean has spent most of her life in a convent and is planning to take final vows.
Cayley Drummle, a friend of Aubrey, discusses with him the inadvisability of marriage between members of different social classes, but Aubrey, intent on having warmth and companionship in his home life, is resolute in his determination to marry Paula. Aubrey has momentary misgivings, however, when Paula appears late at night at his apartment. Such conduct does not become a lady, Aubrey charges; it will cause talk among the servants. Paula’s opinion, indicative of her treatment of domestics, is that servants are merely machines to do chores and to appear for testimony in the divorce courts. Despite her glib pretenses, Paula, too, feels somewhat unsure about the social abyss that she and Aubrey are attempting to bridge. While she goes to put on her cloak, Aubrey, reminded by his servant that he has not opened the day’s mail, reads a letter from Ellean in which she tells him that she has communed with the spirit of her mother, who has admonished her to return to Aubrey in his...
(The entire section is 1228 words.)
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