Chapter 1 Summary
Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. Two years later, in 1922, she published her thirteenth novel, The Glimpses of the Moon. The book enjoyed great success and became an international bestseller. However, some critics believe that by the time Wharton wrote this novel, her writing style was becoming outdated, especially in comparison to the new generation of modern writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Other critics, such as Helen Killoran, argue that The Glimpses of the Moon was a great influence on Firtzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby (1923).
The story begins as the newlywed protagonists, Nick and Susy Lansing, are on their honeymoon. They are staying at a private villa, referred to as Como, on a beautiful lake. This is not the only place to which they might have gone in celebrating their wedding. Susy has a lot of rich friends, many of whom also offered honeymoon getaways. They chose this villa over one that was in Versailles and another in Monte Carlo. They are pleased with their decision. If they had gone to Versailles, all their friends in Paris would have intruded on their privacy. Monte Carlo was also out of the question, according to Nick, because that was exactly where everyone expected they would go. Although Nick is pleased with their decision now that he has seen the villa, he had not originally wanted to come here. Susy reminds him of this fact and emphasizes it by stating that he is going to miss Como once they leave. Nick asks that they not talk about the future. He wants to remain in this timeless space they are enjoying, where they do not have to think about the future or the past.
As they sit outside enjoying their environment, they hear a nightingale singing. It is late in the season for bird songs and mating, and Nick comments that the birds are ending just as he and Susy are beginning. Susy hopes that when their turn comes to say good-bye to one another, they do so just as “sweetly.” Nick refrains from telling Susy that these birds are not parting; they are preparing to build a nest and settle down to a family. Nick and Susy have already discussed their lack of interest in developing a family of their own, so Nick does not mention this.
Their discussion changes returns to future planning as they figure out how they will afford their honeymoon and how long they can make it last. Susy has many connections among the...
(The entire section is 574 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Nick reflects on where he was a year ago and how much his life has changed. He had been committed to never marrying, having told his friends that if ever got close to doing so, they should lock him up. Now he refers to his marriage as an adventure, “a mad one.” For all his thoughts against marriage, here he is, not only married but living in a fabulous villa, at least for now. As Susy sleeps with her head on his knee, he thinks back on how he managed to get to this position.
Nick had graduated from Harvard planned to see the world and experience everything in it. He was blessed with a great imagination, which powered his life more than money did. He had thought himself satisfied with his paltry living conditions until Susy entered his life. She was very pretty and also very amusing, two qualities that Nick found irresistible. As he got to know Susy better, he saw the way she had to do things she did not like in order to get what she wanted. It was a precarious way to live and at first he thought he did not want to be a part of it. He even actually let her go. However, while she was away from him, Nick realized how boring his life was without her.
A chance meeting brought Susy and Nick back together. They attempted to compose themselves upon seeing each other again, but they could not contain their joy. They met at a small house owned by a married couple. The cramped quarters, which included several children, should have cured Nick of all thoughts of marriage, or so he thought. The Fulmers were still young but Nick thought his friends had “lost their heads.” Nat Fulmer was a painter and his wife a musician. However, having married so young and had children so early, their artistic careers were going nowhere and their responsibilities were eating up their small finances. The strange thing, though, was that Nat and his wife appeared happier than Nick had ever seen them. They seemed free of cares in spite of the disorderly appearance of their life.
Something about this couple stirred thoughts of marriage in Susy. This led her to propose that she and Nick make a deal. They should marry—but not with the typical couple’s plan. Susy had seen too many of her friends marry for the wrong reasons. Instead, she and Nick should belong to one another in an open and honorable way, maybe even for only a short period of time. They should have the understanding that whenever either of them got the chance for a better...
(The entire section is 577 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Nick and Susy have been staying at Como for almost a month. This has marked the beginning of their honeymoon. With new guests arriving at the villa the next day, they must now leave. Susy has made plans for the next residence at which they will stay, and they are packing. As Nick goes for his last swim in the lake, he reflects on their time spent here. He hates leaving this place but senses that the next house they stay in will be as elegant. This makes him conclude that Susy is magical. She makes things happen without much effort. People have “showered” houses on them. Their choices seem unlimited. After Como, they will be heading for Venice. They had been offered a place in upstate New York, but they do not want to pay for the air travel just yet. They will save that money for the winter, so they can spend a few months in the States and increase their chances for more offers.
The more he gets to know her, the more Nick wants to protect Susy, though he senses that she would not approve of this sentiment. Susy’s spirit, Nick believes, should never have to be diminished by compromises. He hopes he can improve her circumstances, though he is not clear on how he might do this. He knows Susy always wants the “best and rarest” of everything. His greatest worry is wondering if Susy has any limit to what she might do to get what she wants.
When Nick returns to the house, he finds that Susy has made a change of plans. She has spoken to the chauffeur of the incoming guests. The driver is willing to take them to Milan in his car. Nick is concerned about the cost, but Susy confirms that it is a lot cheaper than taking the train to their next destination. Susy learned that the chauffeur has a girlfriend in Milan, so he is willing to give them a deal on the ride because he planned to go there anyway.
While they pack, Nick becomes annoyed when he sees that Susy has included in her trunk four boxes of expensive cigars their host had left behind in the villa. Whereas Susy believes the cigars are meant for them, Nick sees her actions as being greedy. The cigars do not belong to them, Nick tells her. Susy’s only argument is that if they leave the cigars behind, the servants will smoke them. This incident marks the first disagreement between them. It also makes Nick evaluate Susy in a slightly different light. As they leave the villa, Nick notices the gardener kiss Susy’s hand. The gardener’s eyes are filled with...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
The next house Nick and Susy borrow belongs to Nelson and Ellie Vanderlyn, and Nick refers to it as a palace. The spaciousness, though, is somewhat depressing, especially after the cozy villa on the lake. This new place is cold and shadowy. The large rooms make Susy feel insignificant. She does not remember any other time in her life when evidence of wealth oppressed her.
Upon reflection, Susy wonders if her mood has been caused by the incident with the cigars. Nick should know that she was not taking them for herself. She thought Nick deserved them. She prides herself on her scruples and would never have taken anything for herself. She does not know how to present this concept to Nick in a way he might understand. There is tension between them now, and she does not know how to resolve it.
As she begins to unpack, Susy notices five letters her friend Ellie left for her on the dressing table. One letter is addressed to Susy and the four others are addressed to Ellie’s husband, Nelson. Immediately upon seeing them, Susy senses a scandal. The letters are numbered. Ellie requests that Susy mail these one at a time over the four-week period of her stay. Ellie has gone away, leaving her young daughter behind. She has told her child she is going away for a month-long cure because she is ill. However, the child is not to tell her father because Ellie does not want her husband to worry. The letters will cover her absence.
Susy feels torn. She wants to stay at the Vanderlyns’ estate. However, she finds that Ellie has taken advantage of her. Not only is Susy to take part in Ellie’s lie but she is also to look after the woman’s daughter. Susy is on her honeymoon; this request is not only rude but inappropriate.
In the letter, Ellie has asked that Susy not tell anyone, not even Nick, about the other four letters. She writes that if Susy has any sense of gratitude for favors Ellie has provided, she will keep her secret. “One good turn deserves another,” Ellie writes.
At first Susy thinks of burning the letters and then writing one of her own, telling Ellie that she has changed her mind about staying there. But Susy reconsiders after meeting with Ellie’s daughter, Clarissa, who appears lonely and in need of some loving attention. Clarissa tells Susy that she is very glad she has come. She then asks for help in ensuring that the servants feed her on time. The servants have a tendency,...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Nick leaves the house by himself without telling Susy why or where he is going. Susy does not expect him to tell her everything he is doing because their arrangement leaves them as free spirits, but this does not stop her from thinking about it. She wonders why he did not come into her room and tell her. She questions if Nick is still upset about the cigars she attempted to take from the villa. On top of this, she had gone into his room the night before and found him absorbed in reading a letter. He did not tell her who wrote it. Susy wonders if the letter could be the reason he has gone out by himself this morning. She does not find an answer to this question; he comes home in the morning in a good mood but does not offer any explanation for what he has been doing.
Susy finds that she has a lot of time to herself now. Nick has taken up writing every day and does not meet with her until almost sunset. For this reason, Susy becomes grateful for the presence of Clarissa, Ellie’s eight-year-old daughter. If it were not for the child, Susy would spend much of her time alone. Susy also uses Clarissa to justify staying in Ellie’s house and playing her part in Ellie’s scheme to lie to her husband about her whereabouts. Susy also feels sorry for the child and worries about her safety without having a parent around to look over her.
After one of her outings with Clarissa, Susy contemplates the recent events in her and Nick’s lives, trying to make sense of them. She sees someone arrive; it is an old friend, Charles “Streffy” Strefford. Ellie has told him that he might come and stay. When Streffy asks for Nick’s whereabouts, he balks at Susy’s answer that Nick is writing. “He’s breaking you in,” Streffy states, as if Nick’s writing is an excuse to enjoy his solitude. Susy answers that she has read the first chapter of Nick’s book, proving that he has indeed been working on his novel. It is a “philosophical romance,” Susy says. Then she reminds Streffy that she and Nick are not like other couples who must lie to one another. In contrast, theirs is a “partnership for our mutual advantage,” she tells him. Streffy then asks how Susy can be sure that when Nick wants a change, she will be willing to allow it. This hits a nerve in Susy. She, too, has been pondering this question and wonders if Nick has thought of it too.
When Streffy teases Susy about her martial arrangement, Susy asks him if he...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
The longer Streffy stays in the Vanderlyn home, the more Susy enjoys him. She has always known that he could be empathetic, but he is even more sensitive than usual, especially around Clarissa. Streffy normally would tolerate children but would just as often tire of them. With Clarissa, though, he appears to have endless patience and understanding. He even derides Clarissa’s mother for leaving the child for so long. Ellie was supposed to have returned a few days ago, but no one has heard from her yet.
Streffy says that it is so like Ellie to expect Susy to stand in for the child’s governess and to believe that Susy owed her the favor in exchange for the privilege of staying at the Vanderlyn estate. Streffy adds that Ellie probably did not expect Susy to be so conscientious about the task. Susy responds that a year ago, she more than likely would not have been so responsible. Nick has changed her, she says. He is so good that Susy now looks at life differently.
Streffy does not allow Susy to get away with this statement, claiming that it is not Nick’s goodness that has changed her but rather it is the happiness that Susy has found. He says happiness agrees with her. Susy then asks Streffy what has changed him. Streffy admits that the people who are renting his villa at Como are paying him extra, and they want to stay another month, “at any price.” Money obviously makes Streffy happy.
Later, to stop herself from worrying about Clarissa or Ellie’s absence, Susy thinks about Nick. He truly loved her, Susy is sure. Nick is also thriving in Venice. His writing is going well, and Susy feels confident that his book will be good. Even Streffy agrees after reading a part of it. The book might not make any money, but it will prove that Nick is a good writer.
While waiting for Ellie to return, Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer Hicks show up in Venice. Nick had traveled on their yacht to India a while back. Although the family does not make the best company, Nick feels grateful to them for having given him the chance to see the world. Susy pleads with Nick to protect his writing time and not socialize with the Hickses. However, Nick could never shun the family after what it has done for him.
As the Hickses take Susy and Nick for tours on their yacht, Susy begins to like them more. They are ridiculous and basically unsuccessful, by Susy’s normal standards, but she learns to like them through Nick....
(The entire section is 555 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Nick thinks about his writing and concludes that he knows his ability as a potential author better than Susy or Strefford do. He recognizes his weaknesses and is fully aware of how the concept of the story sometimes slips through his grasp just when he thinks he has command of it. There are times, too, when he is depressed and thinks his story is a failure, but then the underlying meaning of the story returns to him and he gets lost again in a sense of victory.
Nick has named his book The Pageant of Alexander. The protagonist is the young Alexander the Great. The focus of the story is on the landscape of Asia, a topic in which Nick is well informed. Nick hopes to develop a storyline through which he can discuss Asian influences on Western art. This exploration makes Nick feel very happy. Everything in his life, at this moment, makes him happy. He feels inspired and productive. He owes these feelings, he believes, to the sense of ease he has been enjoying. Having someone to look after also adds to his contentment and provides him with a reason to drive himself ambitiously.
Since marrying, Nick’s image of Susy has changed. In a pleasant way, he now looks at her as his possession. He has chosen her, and he loves and honors her. Susy gives Nick a reason for living and a purpose to gather all his usually scattered interests. At first, Nick had worried that eventually living with Susy day after day might bore him. This had happened before with other women with whom he has shared a relationship. Since his marriage, though, Nick has become a “new man.” He no longer believes Susy could ever bore him. Their relationship has secured a new definition. Susy has become his friend.
As the summer wears on, more and more old friends visit Nick and Susy in Venice. The constant company forces Nick to set his writing aside. He asks Susy not to mention the book to anyone because he does not want to discuss it before it is finished. He promises himself that he will again discipline his writing after the visitors are gone.
While not writing, Nick pays more attention to Susy. By seeing her interact with their friends, a new image of Susy emerges for Nick. Some of what he sees frightens him again. He notices changes in Susy. Where she had once been completely independent of him in her thoughts, she now seems to say what she thinks Nick wants her to say. He even begins to question her honesty. This is a pattern...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Just as they are adjusting to Ellie’s unexplained extended absence, Susy and Nick receive a telegram from Ellie; she is due to come home the next day. Ellie arrives in such a good mood that Susy is more willing than she had anticipated to forgive the woman for having left her child at home, expecting Susy to take care of her. The allusion to the letters that Ellie asked Susy to mail, however, is another matter. Susy cannot get over the distasteful feelings of being dragged into the deceitful arrangement. Susy’s concerns go beyond her involvement; she is also frightened of how Nick will react if he should discover the price Susy was willing to pay to accept the free lodging at Ellie’s estate.
As Ellie alludes to her activities while she was away and her plans for the future, Susy reflects on her own past life. There had been a time when she, too, thought happiness was somehow defined by how many new clothes one had or how many important parties one attended. Susy listens to Ellie’s tales, knowing that the deceit Ellie has conjured through her extramarital affairs cannot lead to the real merits of happiness. Ellie is not in love with anyone, not even her child. Susy realizes that her friend lives only for momentary pleasures.
As Susy continues to hear Ellie’s stories, she realizes how big the gulf is between the kind of life she used to live and the one she is now sharing with Nick. It is not that Susy does not still enjoy pretty clothes or fancy parties, but these objects and events have been placed in a minor role in her life. In the past few months, Susy has gained a new perspective. She no longer puts love and fine dresses and good food all on the same level of importance.
Susy is also concerned that Ellie will say something to Nick that will alert him to the fact that Susy has taken part in Ellie’s deception of her husband. So when Ellie tells Susy that she is going to stay at the estate until her husband arrives, so he can bring her new clothes from Paris, Susy is mortified. If Ellie and her husband are together, the deception is almost sure to come out in front of Nick. Susy quickly manipulates Ellie’s plans by telling her to leave for St. Moritz immediately so as to get a good hotel room before they are all taken. Susy will send Ellie’s clothes to her.
Later, when Susy and Nick are alone, Susy tells her husband how she has made sure Ellie will be leaving the next day. This...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Time has slipped forward by a week. Nelson Vanderlyn has come home, and his wife, Ellie, who has decided to stay at the estate and wait for his arrival, is also present. Everyone is sitting at the dining table, including Susy and Nick along with Charlie Strefford.
It has been quite a few years since Nick has seen Nelson, who is now the London representative of a worldwide bank. Nelson has aged and grown fatter. His attitude, though, remains optimistic. Since Nelson has just made his appearance known, the others at the table watch as Ellie greets her husband. Nelson believes that his wife seems very happy to see him. The others, though, understand Ellie’s excitement to demonstrate pleasure in knowing that her new wardrobe has finally made it home.
Later, after Nelson invites his wife, daughter, and Susy to join him in a picnic, Nick and Streffy are left to themselves at home. After watching the women and Nelson leave, Streffy comments, “Well—that’s what you call being married!” Both men understand the drama that is being played out between Ellie and Nelson. It has been long known that Ellie has always been involved in extramarital affairs. Everyone is aware of this except for Nelson. However, when Streffy makes his comment, insinuating that all marriages end up in a similar fashion, with one partner’s making a fool of the other, Nick disagrees with him. This does not stop Streffy from stating that sooner or later a “Rude Awakening” between Nelson and his wife will occur, and Streffy hopes he will not be around when it happens.
Nick contemplates Nelson’s ignorance of Ellie’s infidelities. He feels sorry for the man. However, Nelson and Ellie will be gone in a day or so, and the estate will again be Nick and Susy’s private sanctuary. At this point, the Vanderlyn home seems to belong as much to Nick and Suzy as to anyone.
While Susy is out, Nick decides to go for a walk. He ends up at the church of the Scalzi and loses himself in studying the ancient art pieces. While there, he is pleasantly surprised to see the young Miss Hicks. As they talk about one of the paintings, Nick enjoys the fresh as well as broad interests the young woman has developed. Then the conversation turns more personal when Miss Hicks says she is glad to find him alone. She says she wants to explain why her mother had extended an invitation to Nick to travel with them to Persia and Turkestan. It is revealed that...
(The entire section is 602 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Susy relaxes after she sees both Mr. and Mrs. Vanderlyn leave. Strefford is standing next to Susy and reflects her feelings by stating that they have “been through it.” At this point, both Susy and Strefford believe that the Vanderlyns have gone without exposing to Nick the issue of the letters.
Later, alone in her room, Susy admires the bracelet Ellie gave her. She evaluates the sapphire and emerald jewelry, smiling when she calculates how many “domestic necessities” it will buy. As she is doing this, Nick walks into her room. Without thinking of the consequences, Susy rushes to Nick, proud to show off her new jewels. In response, Nick shows Susy the gift Ellie gave to him. This surprises Susy.
Nick asks Susy to explain why Ellie would present him with a gift. Susy has to think quickly. Nick adds that since his gift looks as if it cost more than Susy’s, his services, whatever they may have been, must have been worth more. He then repeats his question, asking Susy to tell him just exactly what his services were that made him deserve Ellie’s gift.
Susy attempts to deflect Nick’s questions. She pretends that there were no services done; Ellie just likes to give presents to her friends—or perhaps the gifts are in thanks for looking after her daughter. As she is saying this, Susy has trouble looking at Nick. She wants to find out how much Ellie has told him. Nick says it is great that Ellie likes to treat her friends with presents, but she had mentioned something in relationship to her husband. Nick asks what it is that they were supposed to have done that involved being deceitful toward Mr. Vanderlyn. Nick adds sarcastically that he wants to be able to judge if they have been paid enough for their services. When Susy asks Nick what Ellie has told him, Nick laughs. He says that is exactly what Susy needs to know so that she can figure out how to develop her line of defense.
When Susy hears the tone of Nick’s voice, she begins to tremble. She realizes that the only thing that is important is their love for one another. She begins to sense that their love is being threatened.
Finally Susy confesses all she has done. She rationalizes her involvement in Ellie's debauchery by saying it was the price to pay for their being able to stay at the Vanderlyn estate. She begs Nick to tell her that it was worth it. She says that living off of other people, as they are doing, sometimes...
(The entire section is 623 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
At dinner, Susy lies about Nick’s whereabouts and why he is not present at dinner. She has no idea where Nick is, though she guesses he might have gone to see the Hicks family. At first this bothers Susy, but the more she thinks about it, she decides it is funny. Nick thinks the same as she does—that the Hickses are boring. She will call him on the phone after dinner and tease him about being there. He will share the laugh and then come home, or so Susy hopes.
The more Susy considers Nick’s absence, the more it irritates her. She questions if Nick thinks he is better than she is. Does he think he has better principles and standards? The two of them are the same. They had agreed to play by a certain set of rules, but now Nick is attempting to change them. As her anger brews, Susy begins to make jokes with Strefford, saying that before they know it, Nick will be planning to marry Coral Hicks because he loves the Hickses so much.
After dinner, Strefford suggests that they go out for a walk. They wander for a while until Susy suddenly realizes they are standing in front of the place where the Hickses are staying. The windows are all lit up, so Susy concludes they must be having a party. She suggests that they go up and surprise them. Again Susy makes a joke about Coral, saying that this might be the party at which the young girl will announce that she is engaged to Nick.
As Susy makes her way up the stairs, she says it is a shame that she does not have a black cape and mask so she might disguise herself. Strefford says she does not need one tonight, her face has such a strange look on it. This irritates Susy. Before they reach the door to the Hickses place, Susy begins to cry and runs back down the stairs. Strefford eventually catches up with her. He wants to know what is the matter. She tells him she does not feel well and only wants to go home and be alone.
When she arrives back at the estate, a letter from Nick is waiting for her. In the letter, Nick asks that Susy not think he is purposefully being hard on her. However, he needs time to think. To do so, he is going to Milan. He will send a longer letter in a day or two.
In the morning, Susy attempts to comfort herself. After all, Nick did not say he was going away forever. He only asked for a couple of days. He will return, Susy believes. In the meantime, she has Strefford to distract her. When she goes downstairs, though, she is...
(The entire section is 481 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Nick is on a train to Milan when he changes his mind and decides to continue on to Genoa. The extension of his travels on the train gives him more time in which to not make any immediate decisions about his future.
When he reaches Genoa, Nick runs into Mr. Buttles, Mr. Hicks’s personal secretary. At first Nick feels irritated because he must make conversation with someone. Then he feels relieved; he can again postpone his own “broodings.” Nick’s first question to Buttles is about the whereabouts of the Hickses. Nick wonders if the Hickses’ yacht is at the port in Genoa. Mr. Buttles informs Nick that the boat is due to arrive the next day. Buttles is in Genoa alone because he has left his employment with Mr. Hicks.
Although Mr. Buttles does not openly express the cause of his departure from the Hickses, Nick can see that Mr. Buttles is suffering a lot of distress. Buttles confesses only that he is in Genoa to take one final look at the Ibis, the family’s yacht. He hopes to do so without making any contact with the family, especially Coral Hicks. Buttles also implores Nick not to mention to the Hickses that they have met. As their conversation extends, it becomes evident to Nick that Buttles has fallen in love with Coral but his affections are not returned. As Mr. Buttles leaves, Nick sees him as a “limp image of unrequited passion.” Nick also is curious as to how the Hicks are managing their affairs without Buttles; it had been Buttles’s task to act as interpreter to all the foreign guests who flocked to the Hickses’ dinner parties.
Nick is once again left alone to his own misery. He thinks about the events of the past few days. He had sent a letter to Susy the night before and waited for a response from her, but no answer came. The messenger told Nick that he found no one home at the house where they had been staying. This news disheartened Nick; he believes this means that Susy is not suffering from his departure. She had gone out with her friends, having fun as if nothing had happened.
While he was still in Venice, Nick had been out walking the city streets. Around midnight, while waiting for a gondola to take him to the train station, Nick saw Susy with her friends. She was dressed in some of her best clothes and was loudly laughing. As she walked past where he stood, Susy had slipped her hand onto Strefford’s arm. Since then, Nick has relived that scene several...
(The entire section is 629 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Susy has left Venice to go to Versailles, France. Her friend, Violet Melrose, had invited Susy and Nick to spend some time there on their honeymoon. Violet was supposed to be traveling, thus leaving her Versailles home vacant. Susy had been looking forward to some time by herself. After spending so much time in Ellie’s mansion in Venice, Violet’s small house would be the appropriate place for Susy to get her priorities straight. She has been thinking of dropping away from the usual rich crowd of her acquaintance and coming up with a new way of making a living. However, when she reaches the Versailles home, she finds Violet is there.
Nat Fulmer is also staying at the house. Nat is a friend of both Susy and Nick’s. It was at Nat’s cottage that Susy and Nick had discussed getting married. Violet claims that she has discovered Nat. She tells Susy that Nat, who is painter, is a genius. Susy is aware of Nat’s talents but questions Violet’s estimation of his gifts. Susy remembers that Violet is known for “collecting” young artists; Nat is merely Violet’s most recent subject.
It does not take long for Susy to feel that she has been pulled back into the society she had previously thought she might escape. When she had rung the doorbell and waited to begin her venture at Violet’s house, Susy had felt eager to be alone and quiet. She wanted to do nothing but consider all the events that had recently happened between her and Nick and come to some conclusion as to what to do next. As she sits at the dining room table listening to Violet, Susy realizes that she has been there for over an hour and no one has yet asked her where she has come from or why Nick is not with her. That is the way the world of her rich friends works, Susy concludes. They are all so absorbed in their own little worlds that Susy feels like a ghost attempting to appeal to them, but no one hears her or cares. She has no reason to worry about being alone, because even with people around her, she is very much alone in her own world.
That night, Susy reflects on the letter Nick had sent to her. The part that hurts her the most is Nick’s reference to Strefford. Susy feels that the only reason Nick could tell her to turn to Strefford as a possible lover or even a husband is because Nick has fully considered a new future that does not include her.
To lighten her mood, Susy dresses for dinner, expecting to engage in...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
When old friends turn up the next day at Violet’s house, Susy comes up with a story to explain Nick’s absence. Although no one truly listens to what she says, she tells them Nick is on a cruise to do research for his book. Susy is not completely happy about having so many people around her, but she has come to realize that the company keeps her mind off her troubles. Gradually she even finds herself in the force of her old habits, able to join in conversations, gossip about old friends who are not present, and talk about all the newest scandals and lover’s quarrels. After a while, Susy even begins to consider that this is the world for which she was meant. She fells that she has no other choice. The world in which love is the supreme factor, her world with Nick, has been closed off to her—maybe forever.
Two days later, Susy visits with Strefford. She had asked him to meet her. Strefford looks as if he has bought a new, grand wardrobe. However, Susy finds his untidy features as undisciplined as ever. She also thinks that inwardly Strefford has changed, as if the shock of his having come into so much money is overwhelming him. She feels a distance has grown between them, one that had not previously been there.
Strefford is not so distracted, though, that he does not consider what Susy might be going through. Susy tells him that Nick has gone off with Coral Hicks and has set her free, as they had agreed to in their initial marriage plans. When Strefford asks what prompted Nick to leave, Susy only tells him half the story. She says Nick could no longer stand living off of other people. Instead of asking her to try to live in a different style, in a small house with no servants, Nick thought it best if they part. Susy says she was willing to live without the luxuries. However, Nick thought maybe the whole idea of their marriage might have been a mistake from the start. She ends with the statement that she suspects Nick means to marry Coral Hicks.
Strefford says he always thought it was merely a matter of time before Susy and Nick would go their separate ways. Nothing lasts, Strefford says. Susy questions this, insinuating that there must be something sacred, like love, that binds people to something forever. Strefford tells her those thoughts are only for saints, geniuses, and heroes—“all the fanatics!”
Susy feels depressed by Strefford’s attitude and beliefs. She tells him she wants to go...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
After meeting with Strefford, Suzy feels more relaxed. She can see a path that will take her directly to three things she has always wanted in life—freedom, power, and dignity. Strefford, now one of the richest men in England, can give it all to her. The only obstacle is the possibility that Nick might come back, having found that he cannot live without her, as she cannot live without him. If Nick did come back, she would stop worrying about the future. She would only live in the present moment. Nothing but their love would matter to her. She would do anything, she thinks, to be back in Nick’s arms.
There are challenges that interfere with Susy’s dream. Nick’s letter might be proof that Nick has tired of her. Coral’s “insolent” postcard reminds Susy that some other woman means to claim Nick. Susy even begins to believe that Nick does not have enough passion to love her despite the mistakes she has made. In contrast, Susy thinks she can love Nick no matter what he does.
The next morning, Susy feels that her beliefs in Nick’s love might be very much out of line. She gives him one more chance; she tells herself that she will wait one more week for Nick to write. If she does not receive a letter from him by next week, she will write to Strefford.
The following week, Susy receives no correspondence from Nick. In total, they have been separated for three weeks. Susy continues to extend her deadline, giving Nick yet another day, and then another, but still she receives no letter. She finally swallows her pride and writes to Nick’s bank to ask if he has left a forwarding address, but the manager tells her there is no address except for the one in Venice.
Before Susy makes a decision about Strefford, Violet sends her a message asking her to come to her room. Susy suspects that Violet is going to ask her to leave. When Violet asks what Susy’s future plans are, Susy says she is leaving the next day. Susy expects this news will make Violet happy, but it does not. Violet has been hoping Susy would stay for another few weeks. Violet needs her to take care of Nat Fulmer’s five children. Violet and Nat have plans to go to Spain and Mrs. Fulmer has insisted on accompanying them, so someone has to watch over their children. Violet even offers a prized jewel to Susy if she will stay. Susy feels joyful that she can afford to turn down this offer. Although Susy only tells Violet that she is going to...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Nick is sailing on the Ibis, the Hickses’ yacht. He has been spending all his time either reading or daydreaming as he watches landscapes drift past and then disappear. The books and the scenery act as anesthetics as Nick seeks to deaden the pain of his memories.
Nick realizes that he promised another letter to Susy, but he has not yet written because he has found enough reasons to not do so. He knows she is not in need of money because she controlled the money they had collected as wedding gifts; therefore, there is no critical business to take care of. Although their marriage needs to be discussed, Nick justifies his lack of communication on this topic by the idea that they should put some time between their confrontation in Venice and forming any definite conclusion. Besides this, nothing about their situation has changed. If they came back together right now, they would only be doing so under the same circumstances as before, which Nick finds unsustainable.
When Nick had first run into Coral Hicks in Genoa, he thought her invitation meant only a dinner and maybe a short tour on the boat. However, he did admit that he was not feeling well, so the Hickses encouraged him to go on a longer trip, which Nick gratefully accepted. This would give him ten days in which to sort through his thoughts. Every time the yacht pulled into port, though, Nick decided to go on to the next one, and now they are off to Greece. Nick has been growing used to the Hickses even to the point of enjoying their company. He sees no problem in continuing with them except that he needs to find some kind of employment eventually.
When Nick mentions to Coral that his days of leisure are numbered, she suggests that there might be a job that would allow him to stay onboard and give him time to write as well as provide him with an income. The position of secretary to Mr. Hicks is vacant, Coral tells him. Her father needs someone of Nick’s talents. Nick thinks, “Why not?” He feels a little sorry for Mr. Buttles, knowing why the man left, but this does not stop Nick from taking advantage of the situation. Nick tells Coral that he will consider the job and says it is very tempting. He must, however, wait for some letters he is expecting before he can commit to the position.
Nick was hoping to hear from Susy, but when the boat reaches the next port and the mail is brought, he receives nothing from his wife. When Nick...
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Chapter 17 Summary
Susy is waiting for Strefford in London, but she finds the city oppressive. The weather is wet and she is staying in a shabby hotel, which is all she can afford. However, she reminds herself that her independence is the most important thing, so she must learn to sacrifice. But when she finds that she can no longer tolerate the dank smells and the sounds surrounding her room, she goes into the part of the city where her rich acquaintances usually dine.
As Susy had expected, she runs into one of her friends—Ursula Gillow, who is spending a few days in London on her way to her Scotland retreat. Ursula is very happy to see Susy because she never likes to be alone. Ursula invites Susy to join her for lunch.
Ursula is very similar to all the people whom Susy knows in this elite group: she thinks of no one but herself. Friends, for Ursula, are there merely to ensure that she has someone with whom she can talk about herself and her affairs. After they finish their meal, Ursula asks Susy to go shopping with her. Ursula’s manner of shopping, Susy notes, is much different from that of Violet, who takes a long time to decide on what to purchase. In contrast, Ursula “pounce[s] on” objects that interest her. After buying smaller articles, Ursula begs Susy to help her select a grand piano. She is buying the instrument for a “genius” musician she has discovered—Grace Fulmer, Nat Fulmer’s wife. Hearing Grace called a genius catches Susy by surprise as did hearing Violet calling Nat a genius painter. Both Ursula and Violet are in the habit of discovering artists and then supporting and promoting them; the artists become their hobbies. This is Ursula’s and Violet’s way of gaining fame and self-worth, Susy surmises.
The topic of conversation finally turns to Susy and why she is in town. Ursula asks about Nick. Susy tells Ursula that she and Nick are apart for a few weeks while Nick cruises the Mediterranean with friends. When Ursula realizes that Susy is alone, she invites her to her estate in Scotland. Susy immediately realizes that Ursula wants Susy to distract Ursula’s husband by flirting with him, thus keeping him in a good mood. Susy hates this role, which she has played in the past. Susy attempts to make an excuse for not going by saying she is to meet Strefford in London in a few days. Ursula announces that Strefford has already made plans to go to her home the following week, and she suggests that they...
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
Susy next runs into Ellie Vanderlyn. Ellie is the last person Suzy wanted to see. The women come across one another at one of Paris’s fashion shows, where models parade while the women of society consider their new wardrobes. Susy is looking at a floor-length fur coat. Ellie assumes Susy is helping another woman chose clothes, insinuating that there is no way Susy could afford the coat. To Ellie’s surprise, Susy announces that she is considering the coat for herself. Although she has not yet accepted Strefford’s proposal, Susy has been spending her time daydreaming about the wardrobe she would purchase if she did consent to marry him. Her visiting all the fashion designers’ events has provided her with a diversion in her otherwise boring schedule.
Susy feels confident that Strefford is hers, if she so chooses. She and Strefford have just finished a ten-day visit together in Scotland followed by a visit to Strefford’s family home and then a few days in London. In a few days, Strefford plans to meet Susy in Paris.
The thought of her future with Strefford is wearing on Susy. The prospect is not as exciting as she had once thought it would be. The visit to Strefford’s home was oppressive. The house was too big and too old. Strefford’s new responsibilities have the potential to make their lives filled with boring details—too many dull parties, weekly church goings, and presidings over local committees.
Meanwhile, Ellie insinuates that Susy must have taken a rich lover who is now providing her with luxurious fur coats. This makes Susy lose her temper; without thinking of the consequences, she tells Ellie that she and Nick are about to be divorced and both she and Nick are making plans to re-marry. Susy, for the first time, reveals that she may soon become Strefford’s wife. Ellie responds by congratulating Susy on her “miracle of luck.” This only irritates Susy more. Ellie shows no sympathy for the collapse of Susy and Nick’s relationship. Ellie has no understanding of how painful this has been for Susy; she has probably never felt anything as deeply as Susy feels for Nick. Susy then wonders if all the people in her circle of rich friends have foretold her breakup with Nick, discounting it as a brief illusion of love.
Ellie confides in Susy, sharing a new aspect of her life. She has decided to gain a divorce from her husband, too. Her lover has much more money than her husband does,...
(The entire section is 494 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
After spending the day with Ellie Vanderlyn, Susy again reflects on what she is doing with her life. Ellie epitomizes everything Susy despises about the moneyed class—except the money. She questions how she can even consider becoming involved with her rich acquaintances again. Susy has been so mortified by Ellie that she almost cancels her appointment with Strefford the next day. She knows he is expecting an answer from her as to whether she will accept his proposal. So far, Susy still feels unresolved. She continues to hope to hear from Nick.
Upon reflection, Susy decides to keep her appointment with Strefford. They go to a small, out-of-the-way restaurant, ask for a private room, and enjoy their lunch. Susy is thankful for the privacy because she believes she must make a decision; it would be “ungenerous” to keep Strefford in suspense any longer. Susy waits for the right opportunity, but Strefford does not turn their conversation toward personal topics. Instead, he shares gossip as well as his criticism of the people they know, which always amuses him.
Susy quickly loses interest in their conversation. Strefford’s stories had once entertained her but now she feels bored by them. She also questions Strefford’s desire to ever let go of the acquaintances he ridicules. Susy does not think Strefford could live without them. This leads Susy to daydream about Nick instead. If Nick had Strefford’s money, what a different life they would have had! If she were to marry Strefford, she would have the means to create the world she and Nick had dreamed of, but she would have to live in it all alone.
Strefford notices that Susy is not paying attention to what he is saying, and he asks her what is wrong. The fact that he is so attentive to her mood touches Susy. She tells him there is no way she can ever hide from him. Then she asks him where he suggests that she hide, and Strefford answers, “in my heart.” Again Susy is moved by Strefford’s sentiments. If he asks her now, Suzy thinks, she will agree to marry him. However, Strefford does not speak. Instead, he leans forward and kisses her. To Susy’s dismay, Strefford’s kiss is nothing like Nick’s. She does not feel the emotion and passion Nick could arouse in her. In some ways, she is even repulsed by Strefford’s kiss.
Later, when Strefford drops her off at her hotel, Susy promises herself that she will confirm her acceptance of his...
(The entire section is 496 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
Nick Lansing is still with the Hickses, but he has noticed a change in the older couple. Once the Hickses believed that the arts and knowledge were superior to money. Although they had money, they lived without the luxuries money could buy. They thought that luxuries and an artistic way of life could not coexist. However, something recently has transformed these views.
It all began, Nick recalls to himself, the day the Hickses’ path intersected with a “Reigning Prince on his travels.” The Hickses’ “undoing” was that the prince is an archaeologist. This is what attracted the Hickses to the man. Due to poor health, the prince had been forced to leave his northern territory and wander along the Mediterranean shorelines for the warmer climate. As he did so, he took up the hobby of exhuming Ptolemaic mummies.
Mrs. Hicks discovers that in addition to abandoning their palaces in exchange for a tent in the desert, the royal mother and son are also very much interested in art. These two people are quite unlike most of the other royal personages the Hickses have met. What the prince and his mother demonstrate to Mrs. Hicks, in particular, is that one can live a luxurious life and still be considered artistic.
As she comes to know the prince and his mother, Mrs. Hicks decides they should not live without the comforts money can buy while they are living in the Mediterranean region. She takes on the task of providing all she can for them; she invites them into her life.
Coral Hicks, on the other hand, does not change her ways as easily as her parents do. She remains aloof from all the dancing and chatter. Instead, she engages, as she always has, in intellectual conversations. Her looks have improved, Nick notices one night at dinner. In fact, Coral looks more regal, in Nick’s mind, than any of the princes and princesses who have gathered around the table.
Nick is not the only one who notices Coral’s charms. The prince’s aid leans over and hints to Nick that the prince’s mother is very impressed with Coral. He insinuates that the prince might even be prepared to propose to Coral and asks Nick’s opinion on the subject—whether Nick thinks Coral might accept the offer. Nick is not sure how to answer this question. He suspects that Coral’s reaction will be determined by his own opinion. Nick begins to wonder what he thinks about this. Nick realizes that he has spent much of his...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
After dinner with Strefford, things proceed exactly as Susy had expected them to. She is able to promise to begin divorce proceedings. She finds this promise easier to make than she had guessed, and the kiss Strefford gives her is less difficult to receive than the last.
Some of Susy’s ease is due to the newspaper story she read that reported Nick’s still being with the Hickses. It is no wonder Nick has not written to her, Susy tells herself. In these modern times, husbands have no need to write because the newspapers recount their whereabouts and their doings to the world. The story had dragged Susy’s spirits down at first, but she has since decided that she is tired of sadness and anguish. She is young and healthy, both of which disagree with feeling morbid. If Nick does not want her, she will stop wanting him. She has other things to look forward to. She imagines that people will not say Nick abandoned her. Rather, they will say just the opposite. Not only has Susy left Nick but Strefford is mad about her and wants to marry her. Her presence at the dinner confirms all the rumors. Susy is about to become Mrs. Strefford. Everyone approves.
Now when Strefford kisses Susy, she is not repulsed. Instead, she feels nothing. This is what she will do with everything in her new life that she does not like. She will turn off her emotions to them. She will be too busy to worry about them. Her days are already filled with appointments, shopping, and accepting invitations to some of the most exclusive entertainments in town. There is nothing she cannot buy, nowhere she cannot go. Her energies are now spent on choosing what she wants to do and then triumphing at them. This “surface-excitement” has the power of providing Susy with the illusion of happiness and enjoyment.
However, the more time Susy spends with Strefford, the more she sees that he is changing. She liked the old Strefford. He was much more amusing and witty than the new Strefford, who seems petty, boring, and pompous. This will not stop her, though, from becoming his wife.
When Susy meets with a lawyer to begin the divorce proceedings, she is told that it would be best if she were to write to Nick. At first Susy protests that she has no idea what to say in the letter. This task becomes easier, though, after she meets a friend who tells her he has seen Nick in Rome—he has heard that Nick intends to marry Coral Hicks.
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
Strefford is feeling more at ease now that Susy has begun her divorce proceedings. He and Susy are even able to tease one another about their intended marriage. Susy tells Strefford that marrying her is “the easiest way of not marrying all the others.” This is a reference to all the women whose families are pressuring them to present themselves to him, the richest bachelor in England. After Susy says this to Strefford, he looks at her in a way that implies that she is using him in the same way.
Strefford suggests that he buy a small house for Susy in London. This will provide her with a home until they are married so she will not have to stay in hotels or at some of their friends’ houses. Then he says Susy has to look after him and see to it that the other women stay away from him. Susy wants to ask Strefford how much he likes her and why, but she is concerned that he will then ask her the same thing. She is not prepared to answer this question. Another thing she does not confide to him is that she would prefer to go away until the day of their wedding. She would feel more comfortable not seeing him until they were married.
Then Strefford talks about buying Susy a ring as a sign of their engagement. He mentions that he recently saw Ellie and her new fiancé shop for a ring. They were looking at sapphires. Susy despises being linked with Ellie, particularly by Strefford. Just the mention of Ellie’s name makes Susy angry. She tells Strefford that she would much rather he never mention Ellie’s name again. When Strefford asks why she feels this way, Susy cannot bear to tell him about the letters Ellie made her mail as an alibi to her husband when she was having an affair. As the conversation continues, Strefford mentions that it was Ellie and her lover who next used the villa at Como after Susy and Nick stayed on their honeymoon. Susy further realizes that it was Ellie’s chauffeur who drove her and Nick to Milan.
Susy is enraged. She is so emotional that she cannot envision living in the world to which Strefford continues to attach her. When he mentions that they are due to go to the embassy for dinner, Susy cannot bring herself to attend the appointment with him.
In the process of telling Strefford that she cannot face the people who will be at the dinner, she admits that she now realizes she cannot take part in his life. He would be unhappy with her. Strefford says this is his problem, but...
(The entire section is 493 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
As Susy walks away from Strefford, she feels a sense of freedom. All the hypocrisies of the past few months have dropped away. She is herself once again. She is the Susy whom Nick knows and she will never be anyone else.
As she passes a hat shop, she watches the girls who work there leave the store. She could be one of them, she thinks, and earn her own living. When she passes some nuns, she thinks she could do that too. She could give up everything. She imagines having a conversation with a nun, telling the woman about all the money she had thought she needed to buy clothes, cigarettes, cab fare and tips, and all the other extravagant things that belong to the lives of the rich. They would laugh at her. She sees how artificial her life has been. Suddenly, she feels as if that part of her, the frivolous Susy, has died, though she does not yet fully realize that she is dead.
She is making her way home when she sees someone familiar. It is Nelson Vanderlyn, who is very happy to see her. He asks her to join him for dinner, and she does. All through the meal, Nelson attempts to prove how happy he is. He talks about starting over. He has done this before in business when a venture failed. He can do it again. He knows people had thought he would cause a great scene upon hearing what his wife had been up to. He admits that he had a couple of bad days, but he is over that.
When they are ready to leave, Susy excuses herself, saying she would like to go home. Nelson calls a cab and rides with her to her hotel. During the ride, he mentions Ellie’s name and asks Susy if she ever sees his wife. As he says this, Nelson begins to cry. He asks Susy to tell Ellie that he is doing well. He does not want Ellie to think she has hurt him. “Tell her I’m happy,” Nelson says, as he wipes his eyes with his perfumed handkerchief. In part, he is. He says he still retains the pleasant memories of their marriage. He wants Ellie to know that he understands.
Susy says good-bye and goes to her room. She wants to write a letter to Strefford so he will not come by the next day. Writing to him is as painful as writing to Nick had been. She would like to be completely honest with Strefford. If she were, she would tell him that the real reason she does not want to become his wife is that he is not Nick. She will always be in love with Nick no matter what happens. But Susy does not write this. It would be too painful for...
(The entire section is 495 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
Nick adjusts his schedule so he can have time to think, but when he is on his own, he does not know what he is supposed to think about. He does question one thing: he wonders what future he could possibly have without Susy. The letter he received from her was a shock. She wants to be released from their marriage, so in a responding letter he told her that he would not stand in her way. He has not heard from Susy or either of their lawyers since then. He is not in hurry to be free, so he has not pursued the divorce or made any attempts to find out what has delayed the proceedings. In some ways, since receiving Susy’s letter, Nick has considered himself a free man. However, this has not helped him define his future in any way. Instead, he feels as if he is recovering from a long illness and is too weak to think about anything.
Although nearly everything seems vague to him, Nick is sure of one thing: he is tired of working for the Hickses. He does not enjoy being paraded about as a piece of property, although this is exactly how the position as aide to Mr. and Mrs. Hicks has turned out. He can no longer endure the boredom of explaining the genealogies of all the royal guests whom the Hickses ceaselessly entertain. He has decided that he must find another manner of making a living. However, this is not really the challenge that is bothering him. He feels confident that he will never starve. He knows how to make enough money to sustain life. His real problem, the one he cannot seem to solve, is how to live without Susy.
He has not changed his mind about the way he and Susy had been living. He knows he will never return to living off Susy’s rich acquaintances. However, every time he contemplates how they might make their relationship thrive, he runs into a dead end. He does not even know if Susy is still available. He has heard rumors that she is to marry Strefford. If it were not for those rumors, Nick would go to Paris and find Susy.
At the end of his long walk, Nick has come to no definite conclusions. He makes his way back to the hotel where he has been living with the Hickses in Rome. Upon his arrival, he is summoned to Coral Hicks’s room. Coral tells him she is considering marrying the prince. She wants to know what Nick thinks. Coral makes it clear that she is hesitant because she would rather be marrying Nick. Nick feels flattered by her affection although he knows he does not love her.
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
Susy is living at the Fulmers’ house, taking care of their five children while Mrs. and Mr. Fulmer spend three months in Italy. She had previously turned down the job of watching the Fulmer children and, upon accepting the position this time, worried that watching over five children would be “dull or depressing.” But Susy is discovering that the Fulmer children are a joy to be with. Susy feels the challenge of caring for so then—sometimes she feels that there are not five children but rather a whole army of little ones. Most of the time Susy is excited about being with them. They are very intelligent children with wide and varied interests. Their parents have raised them by encouraging their imaginations as well as their intellects. They enjoy good music, care about good books, and can carry on stimulating conversations. The children’s minds have been awakened to beauty, something to which Susy can relate. These children are kindred spirits to her own.
The position Susy is serving has not convinced her that this is the employment she wants to pursue. She does not want to spend the rest of her life taking care of other people’s children. However, the experience has changed her. In some ways, Susy feels as if the children have been mothering her. It is as if they have been teaching her how to take the first steps toward a life of immaterial values. The children also provide a sense of meaning in her life.
On some days, Susy daydreams about what it might have been like if she and Nick had stayed together and had children of their own. Their life might have been similar to what Susy is now experiencing with the Fulmers. To the outside world, their lives might have seemed small. However, to themselves, their experiences would have been very important.
In the meantime, Susy has not sent the letter she received from Nick to her lawyer. Since she has broken her engagement with Strefford, she sees no reason to pursue the divorce. If Nick wants the divorce, he knows how to get it. As weeks go by without any news from Nick, Susy builds hope that Nick still wants her. When Susy reads that Coral Hicks is to be married to a prince, her hopes soar. Later, though, when another news article makes known that this rumor was false, Susy falls into despair. She has always felt certain that Coral loved Nick, and she expects that he is what prevented her alliance with the prince. To confirm her supposition, one day Susy...
(The entire section is 496 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
Nick has not yet committed himself to Coral, but he told her he was going to France to obtain his divorce from Susy. His emotions have been stirred by Coral’s having confessed her love for him, which makes him think that maybe they could enjoy a good marriage, albeit a temperate one. Intellectually they are well matched, and their marriage would increase their opportunities. As he travels, Nick expects to propose to Coral when he returns to Rome. Nick concludes that it seems inevitable that he and Coral will be together.
However, once in Paris, Nick discovers that the idea of marrying Coral has no basis. Everything about Paris reminds him of Susy. Although he has not made contact with her, he senses her in every female he sees simply because there is the possibility that they might run into each other, now that they are in the same city.
Nick’s first business in the city is to see his lawyer. He is informed that before he can procure a divorce, he must first secure a residence in the city. He does so by renting a very cheap apartment. When he returns to the lawyer’s office, he asks the attorney for Susy’s address. Nick tells himself that he is making this request so as to avoid walking down the same street on which Susy lives. It does not take long for him to realize that this is not the truth. Knowing the exact location where Susy is makes Paris come alive for Nick. The city has meaning with Susy’s presence confirmed. The address, however, surprises him. He would have thought she would be in a more exclusive neighborhood, such as in the vicinity of the Champs Elysees. She is probably staying with Ellie Vanderlyn, Nick concludes. Ellie must have moved to a new location.
Nick tells himself it is a good thing that Susy’s neighborhood is so far from the center of the city. There is much less chance that he will run into her; he has no business in that part of town. For the rest of the day, he walks around the city until he is tired. Then without another thought as night falls, he hails a cab and gives the driver Susy’s address. Nick decides that he need not try so hard to avoid her.
When he reaches her address, Nick waits across the street, staring at the house. It is not the opulent residence he had expected. To his surprise, Suzy comes to the front door to answer the call of a messenger. She is holding a young child in her arms and looks transformed. She looks poor. Nick realizes that...
(The entire section is 545 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
Susy is at the Fulmers’ home, visiting with Strefford. The first thing Strefford asks is why Susy is there. The inside of the house looks shabby and messy, with children’s articles and toys spread everywhere. Susy cannot answer honestly because she does not believe Strefford can understand. She dares not mention Nick and the feelings that are surging inside of her for her husband—hoping that some miracle will occur and Nick will want her back. Instead, Susy tells Strefford that the divorce is proceeding and until it is complete, she prefers to keep busy and to herself.
At the mention of the divorce, Strefford brings up Ellie and Nelson Vanderlyn and their marital breakup. As Susy listens, she hears more than Strefford’s words; she hears his emotions—the pain that she caused him by breaking off their engagement. Susy also realizes that Strefford is not hurt as much as he pretends to be. Their broken engagement is merely a nuisance, like any other number of bothers in his life.
Strefford still wants to marry Susy. She tells him she cannot do this. She confesses that she does not “yet feel unmarried enough.” Strefford responds by reminding her that Nick seems to be doing all he can to make her feel unmarried. Susy says that no matter what Nick does, she will probably always feel married to him. Strefford says that is exactly how he feels about her. Then he leaves.
After she puts the children to bed, Susy convinces herself that the best thing for her to do is write a note to Nick and invite him to come visit her. If they are going to end their relationship, she tells herself they ought to end it as friends.
The next day, Nick reads Susy’s letter three times, scrutinizing her words in the hope of discovering any hidden meaning. Susy had mentioned the need to “settle things.” Nick cannot make sense of this. He wonders what secret purpose has prompted her invitation. Then he questions why he is always so suspicious of her motives. Last night, when he watched her at the door of the Fulmers’ house, all his hardness toward her vanished. After all, the divorce is not her fault. He is the one who left her. She is now merely trying to make the best of it. So he sends a telegram, addressed to “Mrs. Nicholas Lansing,” to inform Susy that he will come by the house that afternoon.
(The entire section is 415 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
When Susy receives Nick’s telegram, she, too, scrutinizes every detail of his words. The message is brief. She wonders why he signed it “N.L.” rather than spelling out his name; she had signed her note “Susy.” She feels that the initials place a personal “abyss” between them. She anxiously awaits his arrival but she dares not stand in front of the window and look out. She does not want to appear anxious. Then finally he is there.
Susy looks at Nick and has trouble seeing the man she married. He feels like a stranger. Then she realizes that it is the sound of his voice that makes him feel unfamiliar. He is talking to her in a tone that he usually reserves for people he does not know very well. He has never talked to her in that way. The more she looks at him, though, the more she realizes that the barrier she feels between him and her is of Nick’s construction. Susy concludes that Nick must be suffering as much as, if not more than, she is. She believes that the reason for his pain is that he pities her because he is about to marry someone else. When she says, “I’ve heard about you and Coral,” Nick merely touches her hand with his cold fingers and thanks her.
Trying to relax them both, Susy asks Nick if he agrees that it is much better for them to end as friends who are able to talk things over without any bad feelings. Nick thanks her for feeling this way. Then, alluding to Susy’s plan to marry Strefford, Nick says he is glad that her future is well planned. Susy does not want to tell him that her engagement has been called off. Instead she says “it” makes everything easier for him, meaning that he should feel less guilty about marrying because she will be doing the same.
They continue their conversation in this way, speaking but not really revealing their true feelings. Both of them are afraid both of exposing themselves and of hurting one another. A painful moment comes when Susy asks what “the necessary steps” are involved in their obtaining a divorce; Nick tries to sound casual when he says delicately that he is going to another town to be unfaithful. Susy is shocked but soon finds herself unable to voice her feelings on the subject without exposing her feelings on their relationship. Eventually Nick asks Susy why she is living with the Fulmers, and the dialogue between them stays on the surface as they exchange news about friends.
When Nick stands to leave, Susy...
(The entire section is 553 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
Susy rises the next morning well before the normal time to wake the children. She enters Junie’s room. Junie is twelve and old enough and capable enough to care for her siblings at least for a few hours. Susy tells Junie that there is something she must do. Junie sees tears on Susy’s face and becomes quite concerned. Susy says she must go away for the day even though she promised the children’s mother that she would never leave the children alone. However, she has “got to.” Junie not only agrees to undertake the care of her siblings but encourages Susy to go. Although she has no understanding of what is bothering Susy, Junie tells her that getting away for a few hours will do her some good. Susy wakes and dresses the children, then she prepares to leave.
When Susy emerges from the house, it is barely light outside and it is raining. Susy walks toward the far corner of the block, where she sees a taxi that looks as if it might stop. Susy races forward, hoping to catch the taxi before it pulls away. When the cab reaches her, it stops. The door opens and the passenger emerges—it is Nick.
Nick immediately asks where Susy is going. He tells her he has come to get her. Susy cannot believe what she is hearing, so she asks, “To get me?” twice. Nick responds, “Yes.” Then he asks where she was going. Susy does not verbally respond. Instead she merely turns around and leads him back to the house. She does not answer his question until they are inside. She tells him she was going to look for him. She wanted to tell him there must be some other way to proceed, some way to prevent the “horror” of his going off with another woman. (Although it is not fully expressed, Nick’s lawyers must have told him that he must have an extramarital affair in order to obtain a divorce. Nick had planned to go to another town and pay a prostitute to have sex with him.)
Nick laughs at Susy’s statement, and this infuriates her until Nick says there is no other way unless the woman with whom he has the affair is her. Nick tells Susy that he realized last night that they probably were both feeling the same things. He, too, did not sleep well and was up before daybreak. Nick exposes all his love for Susy. He says that they are married, and that is all that matters. He apologizes for having left her. Susy admits that she feels the same way. She also tells him that she broke off her engagement to Strefford. Then she asks if...
(The entire section is 484 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
Nick insists that Susy go away with him, but Susy tells him she cannot leave the children. If they are to go somewhere, the children must come with them. This seems absurd to Nick because he feels he and Susy are about to go on a new honeymoon, but Susy will have it no other way. She has grown to care for the children, and she is serious about her responsibility to them.
As Nick is busy taking care of details before they leave, Susy runs an errand of her own, but readers are not yet told what she is doing. When everything is packed, Nick, Susy, the five children, their cook, a cage of birds, and a small kitten all depart for a short holiday. When evening falls, Susy puts the children to bed and leaves the cook in charge of them. Then Susy goes to Nick’s room. Nick tells her that he has received a letter that contains good news. While he had been traveling with the Hickses, he had written a few articles about the places he visited and sent them off to a publisher. The letter he received that morning contained the news that the editor liked the articles; he sent Nick a check and asked for more travel pieces. This means that they have the money to pay for their jaunt with the five children and that Nick now has a means of supporting himself. Having the stories published also gives Nick confidence that his book might one day also bring him some money.
Upon hearing this news, Susy cries. She hesitates to tell Nick that this morning before they left Paris, she took the expensive bracelet Ellie had given her and pawned it. She received enough money to pay for their trip with the children. However, now that Nick has his check, Susy can retrieve the bracelet and send it back to Ellie, thus releasing herself from the whole affair that caused Nick to leave her.
Nick had braced himself when Susy began her confession. He feared that in the middle of feeling so happy in their reunion that Susy might have done something that would make him angry. However, just the opposite has happened. He is proud of Susy for having changed her ways and wanting to no longer live off her rich friends.
In the final moments of the novel, Nick and Susy have their arms wrapped around one another as they stand in front of a window thinking about everything that has recently happened to them. Nick is surprised to have a thought of Coral. Nick concludes that he had been a coward with Coral in not telling her exactly how he felt. In...
(The entire section is 514 words.)