Chapter 17 Summary
Undine reflects on her past in order to redirect her future. She admits having made mistakes, and she does not want to repeat them. Asking for money from Van Degen was a mistake, she believes. It makes her feel like she is living hand-to-mouth, begging him for funds every time she needs them. What she wants in her future is a more sustainable plan.
Nonetheless, she is angry that Van Degen is leaving her behind. She feels him slipping away from her grasp. If she could find some way to get to Paris, she knows she could once again bring him under her influence. She is tired of New York. It has become like a desert to her. Everyone she wants to be with is now in Europe.
The only person she can think of turning to is her father. She goes to his office to talk with him without her mother’s interference. Upon seeing her father, Undine notices but does not empathize with her father’s physical changes. He has been under a lot of strain and it shows. However, this does not change her course of conversation. She tells him she needs to get away from New York. She uses her supposed failing health as a ploy to gain his sympathy. She tells him that she has not been healthy since she got pregnant.
Mr. Spragg, in response, points out her lack of understanding, stating that she always has plenty of excuses but never seems to understand other people’s. When Undine hears this, she knows that she must attempt a different tactic. This time she tells him she wants to leave not only for health reasons but because her marriage is disintegrating. When this statement does not affect her father in the way she has hoped, Undine adds another element, confessing that her marriage was a mistake from the beginning.
Undine sees that she is having some effect on her father, so she intensifies her story, adding that she thinks it is wrong of Ralph’s family to expect her father to support her and her baby. This tact really works. Undine can see from the way the muscles in her father’s jaw tighten that she has made a point to which her father can relate. She insists that Ralph’s family is using her father, yet they do not respect him. Undine reminds her father that Ralph’s family rarely invites him and her mother to their house, and yet they give dinner parties every week. They do not like her, either, and they never have.
Then Undine drops the line that makes the deepest impression on her father. She tells him that if she can get away to Europe, she may never have to come back. There is a man, she tells him, who is in Paris and who might want to take care of her forever. If she were free, Undine says, she could get married to the “right” man this time.