The Golden Bowl Book 4, Chapters 1-2 Summary

Henry James

Book 4, Chapters 1-2 Summary

Maggie waits at her home (not her father’s, for once) for Amerigo’s return from his trip with Charlotte. She is nervous of her appearance, always having felt inferior to Charlotte in terms of personal style and fashion. She waits patiently, trying not to pace, but she is anxious for her husband to return, unconsciously fearing his time spent alone with Charlotte. She reflects that she has always loved her husband, especially from the time he proposed to her in Rome, but she has a more conscious need of him now. She has seldom been home; she has spent much of her time at her father’s. She felt that, rather than taking her attention away from her new husband, she was providing her husband with a new friend in her father. It seems, however, that both her husband and her step-mother have felt marginalized by her attentions to her father, which she had not intended. It is for this reason that she anxiously waits for Amerigo’s return.

When he arrives, he briefly describes his day and says that he is very tired and must bathe and dress for dinner at ten o’clock. She offers to help him get ready, but he gently refuses. This bothers her—both his refusal and her being an annoyance in slowing him down in his preparations.

While her husband dresses for dinner, Maggie feels once again that she is alone. The feeling comes from more than just being in a room by herself. She feels that she has been isolated and cut off from both her husband and her friend Charlotte. She imagines a scene in which Amerigo and Charlotte, along with the Principino, are riding in the family carriage while she and her father stand on the roadside and wave as they go by. She blames herself for this isolation because she has paid so much attention to her father rather than to her husband. She is jealous of Charlotte, not just for her style but for her ease of personality.

At dinner, Maggie asks her husband for details about his trip with Charlotte, in this way to be somewhat included in their lives. She decides she must have a plan to stop being marginalized in the life of her husband, who evidently finds more enjoyable companionship with his step-mother-in-law than with his wife. The four people have been “arranged,” with Amerigo and Charlotte arranged together and Maggie and Mr. Verver arranged apart. Maggie must find some way to change this arrangement.