Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 405
Eleanor Faraday enters into a non-traditional
marriage with Charles, both respecting the other’s
sense of individuality and needs. Eleanor is Charles’s
‘‘ideal woman,’’ intelligent and intellectually curious.
She becomes the perfect companion for Charles
as the two engage in various programs of study.
Although she has a logical mind, ‘‘sharp in its
reasoning, strong and unprejudiced in its outlook,’’
she also displays a quick intuition, a nice counter to
Charles’s slower, more methodical thought procA
esses. Her earnestness and intensity are balanced by
Charles gentle humor. He also appreciates her con-
fidence, ‘‘unmarred by self-conscious mannerisms.’’
Eleanor has a history of diverging ‘‘from the
beaten walks of female Plymdaledom,’’ a tendency
she exhibits from the start of the story when she
complains about having to put her marriage announcement
in the local newspaper. This type of
public recognition disturbs her and she has previously
avoided it. Her refusal to go against her nature
and to make expected social concessions has resulted
in her being branded a ‘‘crank.’’ When she
refused to have a pre-announcement of the wedding
published, the public ‘‘while condemning her present,
were unsparing of her past, and full with
damning prognostic of her future.’’ Yet, Eleanor
stands ‘‘stoically enough’’ in the face of public
criticism. For her, ‘‘the satisfying consciousness of
roaming the heights of free thought, and tasting the
sweets of a spiritual emancipation’’ far outweighed
Eleanor, like her husband, takes pride in her
independence and her sense of reason. Yet, again as
is the case with her husband, both qualities are
tested during the course of the story and found
wanting. Her immediate reaction to Charles’s declaration
of his feelings for Kitty is jealousy, and
perhaps, the narrator hints, an urge to take a lover.
Her utter despondency before Charles arrives suggests
that she may have entered into a relationship
with Monsieur l’Artiste. The narrator never makes
the relationship clear and avoids any insight into her
motivation, but her actions suggest that she has
difficulty accepting Charles’s independence and
honesty when it concerns his attention to another
Eleanor, however, is able to quickly restore her
relationship with Charles when she explains her
business relationship with Monsieur l’Artiste and
declares that she wants to return to America. Ironically,
her honesty in admitting her jealousy over
Kitty prompts her husband to regard her in a traditional
light, as an emotionally flawed woman.
Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 597
This is the name the narrator gives to the artist who paints Eleanor’s portrait as a surprise gift for Charles. Eleanor’s actions suggest that she had some romantic feelings for the artist, who is described as quite handsome. He fades, however, into the background when the portrait is completed and Eleanor decides to return home with Charles.
Kitty, the youngest Beaton daughter, has just returned from boarding school when Charles begins his relationship with her family. She is a headstrong young woman, ‘‘with a Napoleonic grip . . . keeping the household under her capricious command,’’ described as self-centered. ‘‘Her girlish charms’’ however, coupled with the ‘‘soft shining light of her eyes’’ touch Charles to such a degree that he admits
Margaret, the eldest Beaton daughter, becomes a representative feminist in the story. Her community views her as ‘‘slightly erratic’’ for her participation in the Woman’s Suffrage movement, which includes the wearing of ‘‘mysterious’’ clothes as a statement of solidarity with her sisters and freedom from constraining social custom. The narrator critiques her actions, noting that her clothes produced ‘‘the distinction of a quasi-emancipation,’’ which, ‘‘defeated the ultimate purpose’’ of her cause.
Mr. Beaton is a fellow professor at the university where Charles teaches. He is an older man but retains a youthful vitality, which ‘‘formed the nucleus around which [his] family gathered, drawing the light of their own cheerfulness.’’ Charles enjoys the company of Beaton and his family in Eleanor’s absence.
Mrs. Beaton, Mr. Beaton’s wife, represents the traditional wife and mother. Her ‘‘aspirations went not further than the desire for her family’s good, and her bearing announced in its every feature, the satisfaction of completed hopes.’’
Charles, a professor of mathematics at Plymdale University, originally falls in love with Eleanor Gail because of her beauty. Later, her logical mind makes her what Charles considers his ‘‘ideal woman.’’ Charles creates an ideal vision of marriage, insisting that he and his wife will reject the traditional restrictions on individuality that are typical of the institution. His convictions are strong enough to endure public condemnation, although the critics appear to be harsher in their assessment of Eleanor’s behavior than of his.
Charles tempers his wife’s earnestness with humor and optimism that prevents their explorations into the ideas of the times from acquiring ‘‘a too monotonous sombreness.’’ He has an outgoing and friendly nature that ‘‘invited companionship from his fellow beings.’’
Charles has an active mind and prides himself on his careful thought processes. He comes to conclusions by the slow ‘‘consecutive steps of reason.’’ Concluding that Eleanor should have the opportunity to fulfill her desires, he adapts himself quite readily to the long separation from her, resuming his ‘‘bachelor existence as quietly as though it had been interrupted but by the interval of a day.’’
His optimistic vision of his wife and their unconventional marriage, however, blinds him to the realities of human nature. He does not see the danger in his affections for Kitty, nor does he understand that sharing those feelings with Eleanor will cause a very human, jealous response. He also fails to recognize that same fault in his own character when he becomes enraged over his suspicions that Eleanor is having an affair with the handsome Frenchman he sees in her company. Ironically, he quickly falls back into ascribing stereotypes when he faults his wife’s jealously, noting that really, she is ‘‘only a woman after all’’ while forgetting his own display of that same emotion.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support