Chapters 13-16: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2453

Part Two of the novel marks a shift in narrative voice: whereas Marian narrated the first 12 chapters in the first person, the next 18 chapters are delivered in the third person. There is also a shift in time: two months have passed since Marian’s engagement to Peter. Chapter 13 opens with a description of Marian sitting “listlessly” at her office desk. She doodles while around her the rest of the office is in a turmoil. She used to feel a sense of participation in these minor excitements but ever since her engagement—and ever since she knew that she would not be there forever—she has viewed her surroundings with a certain amount of detachment. In fact, she discovers that she cannot get involved or interested even when she would like to.

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Lunching out with Emmy, Lucy, and Millie, Marian is asked about Peter. She has been keeping her engagement a secret from her office friends but the question catches her off guard. Unable to resist, Marian smiles glowingly and announces that she and Peter are getting married. She then watches as the expressions around her turn from expectation to dismay. Momentary elation is followed by a series of remote and impersonal questions about the wedding. Finally Lucy asks: “How on earth did you ever catch him?” Marian looks away from their “pathetic and too-eager faces” and says that she does not know. Now that she has told them, she feels sorry for having raised their hopes without being able to produce a set of instructions for accomplishing the same.

After lunch, Peter calls Marian to cancel their dinner plans. The cancellation leads to a minor disagreement and Marian hangs up the phone feeling exhausted. Later in the afternoon she gets a call from Joe with news that Clara has finally had the baby (it was late). She tells him that she will visit Clara tomorrow. Marian had been putting off the visit because she felt unable to handle another evening spent “contemplating Clara’s belly.” Now that her friend was “deflating toward her normal size,” Marian thinks that she will be able to talk to her more freely. She even buys flowers as a
welcome-back gift for the real Clara.

As soon as she gets off the phone, Marian becomes acutely conscious of time and imagines it lifting her body out of the office towards the day in the future when she and Peter will marry. She senses that somewhere arrangements are being made, things are being taken care of. Meanwhile, she floats, “trusting [the current] to take her where she was going.” Later in the afternoon, Mrs. Bogue reports that there has again been trouble with the “Underwear Man.” The underwear man, Mrs. Bogue explains, is a man who poses as a Seymour representative and asks women dirty questions over the phone. Marian thinks that maybe the man is a victim of society, crazed into a frenzy by girdle advertisements. She is still thinking about him when she leaves work and, for a moment, believes that the underwear man could be Peter. Perhaps that was his true self, the secret identity that had been occupying her mind more and more lately.

When Marian gets home, Ainsley informs her that tonight is the night for her plans with Len. Although two months have passed since their first meeting, the image Ainsley constructed during their first encounter was so pure and innocent that Len has taken things extra slow. She tells Marian that she plans to invite Len up for coffee after their dinner date and let herself be backed into the bedroom. Marian agrees to go out for awhile and even lends Ainsley her bedroom (which is neater than Ainsley’s) for the good of the plan. She decides to pass the time by going to a movie and, on her way to the theatre, is again plagued by the thought that she should warn Len. She then remembers the tacit agreement...

(The entire section contains 2453 words.)

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