Chapters 1 and 2 Summary and Analysis


Basil Ransom has come to Boston in order to visit his cousin, Olive Chancellor. Originally from Mississippi, Basil left his financial holdings in the hands of his mother and sister and moved to New York City, eventually becoming a lawyer. On his arrival at Olive’s home, he is met by Mrs. Luna (Adeline), Olive’s sister. Greeting him very familiarly, Mrs. Luna tells Basil that Olive will be down in around ten minutes. Olive would not give an exact time, because she was not sure she could be exact, and did not want to lie. Mrs. Luna’s indication, according to Basil, is that she herself would fib at some point in time. Basil states that he pretends not to prevaricate.

Olive is on her way to a meeting. Mrs. Luna informs Basil that her sister is a “roaring radical.” Basil is concerned, since he has little interest in "reform" as practiced in the North. Mrs. Luna, however, says that the problem is not Boston itself; it is just Olive. Shocked that he does not already know, Mrs. Luna informs Basil that she lived in Europe for several years after her husband's death. She has now returned to America with her son, Newton.

At this point, Olive Chancellor enters the room. Mrs. Luna tells her to reform Basil, as someone from Mississippi is sure to be all wrong. Leaving to attend a theatre-party, she suggests on her way out that Olive take Basil to Olive's “female convention.”

The narrator reveals himself to be informed about the “occult." He reveals that Mrs. Luna is “personal,” implying that she keeps to herself and does not involve herself in anyone else’s interests. As for Olive, Basil can see that she is a person “who takes things hard.” He is not impressed with her feminist proclivities: he believes that women should be private and leave publicity to the men. Yet Olive is always on the lookout for duties to perform. It is for this reason she contacted Basil when she found that her Southern cousin had moved North. She invited him to visit the first chance that his business brought him to Boston. She knew that during the Civil War her mother had wanted to send money...

(The entire section is 880 words.)