Chapter 5 Summary

On Sunday morning at Bellomant, Mr. Gryce stands waiting for Lily Bart. Last night, the two of them made plans to meet and go to church together; she had dropped a few comments which gave him the impression that she was a regular churchgoer. Mr. Gryce reflects that Miss Bart is an excellent person for being so good when she lives among such superficial and materialistic people. As he waits, a few other people show up—but Miss Bart does not appear.

Lily gets up in time to make it to church, but the day looks so bright and cheerful that she finds herself tempted to play hooky. She fully expects Mr. Gryce to propose to her this afternoon, and she plans to accept. Nevertheless, she is not eager to let him bore her all the way to church and back. Wearily, she imagines attending church with him Sunday after boring Sunday for the rest of her life.

Since Selden’s appearance yesterday, Lily has stopped feeling happy about the idea of marrying Mr. Gryce. Selden is from an old, respectable family, but he works for a living and thus knows how to exist “outside the great gilt cage” in which Lily lives. To be sure, Lily has spent her whole life trying to earn a permanent place in this cage, but suddenly its inhabitants seem duller than they used to. Compared to Selden, everyone else seems dim-witted and frivolous.

With these thoughts in mind, Lily lets Mr. Gryce leave without her. She tells herself vaguely that she will meet him after church and walk him home. In the meantime, she puts on an outdoorsy dress and checks the library to see if Selden happens to be there reading a book. He is—but Mrs. Dorset is with him. This makes Lily jealous. She has assumed that Selden has come to Bellomont just to see her. Now it occurs to her that he may have come to see Mrs. Dorset instead. After all, everyone knows that he and Mrs. Dorset once had a short romantic fling. Lily has heard this relationship was over, but perhaps it is in the process of rekindling.

Lily goes outside alone and walks slowly toward the church. She sits down on a bench, waiting to see if Selden will come out and speak with her. Just when she is about to give up, he appears. Lily banters and flirts with him, enjoying the conversation far more than she has enjoyed any talk with Mr. Gryce.