Chapter 1 Summary
In his senior year at Harvard, Barrett decides to do his studying at the Radcliffe library; it is quieter and has plenty of women. One of the young women working there today is a “bespectacled mouse type,” and he asks her to help him find a book. She is not helpful; in fact, she insults him by calling him “Preppie” and saying that he “looks stupid and rich.” Barrett assures her he is smart and poor; she assures him it is she who is smart and poor.
When she takes her glasses off to argue with Barrett more effectively, he sees her eyes are brown, but he will not let a “’Cliffie” call him dumb, even if she has pretty eyes. She claims to be smart because she would never have coffee with him; when Barrett says he would never ask her, she claims that is what makes him stupid. Barrett takes her for coffee only because he gets to study the book he needs while he waits for her. When she steps from behind the counter, he approves of her legs but not her too-Bohemian outfit.
They go to a nearby sandwich shop, where she finally introduces herself as Jennifer Cavilleri, a music major of American-Italian descent. He introduces himself as Oliver Barrett but omits the “fourth.” He is thankful she does not associate him with Barrett Hall, the largest and ugliest building in Harvard Yard. His family is rich and vain and suffers from “flagrant Harvardism.” Soon they sit in silence, and Barrett is afraid they have already run out of conversation. He looks at her notebooks and comments on her advanced music classes; she insults him by again calling him “Preppie” and claims his family built Barrett Hall (so she does know who he is) only to ensure that his pitiful self would be admitted into Harvard. Barrett wonders why, if she thinks so little of him, Jenny practically bulldozed him into buying her coffee. Jenny looks directly at him and smiles as she tells him she likes his body.
As he walks Jenny back to her dormitory, Barrett is determined to win over this “snotty Radcliffe bitch.” He is not kind when he nearly demands that she attend the Harvard hockey game against Dartmouth Friday night. She irreverently demands to know why. When he tells her he is playing, there is a brief silence before she asks him for which team he is playing.