The Wings of the Dove Chapters 3 and 4 Summary and Analysis

Henry James

Chapters 3 and 4 Summary and Analysis


Kate meets Merton Densher in Kensington Park, near her aunt’s home. The two had met the previous year at a party. There was immediate attraction. Their second meeting was on the Underground, at which time Merton asked if he could call on her. As an independent, modern woman of twenty-five, she agreed, yet she did ask her aunt’s permission. Mrs. Lowder told her she was free to see whomever she wished.

As the couple talk in the park, they discuss Kate’s situation. Like Marian, Merton is concerned that Kate would offer to go live with her father, especially since his situation would only drag her down. Kate had told him that, when she was fifteen, her mother told her that her father had done “something wicked.” Kate did not want to discover what exactly he had done and still does not know. As far as living with him now, Kate claims that it was for her own escape from Aunt Maud. Yet her sister and her father see her living with Aunt Maud as the only chance for them to survive. Therefore, because of her family feelings (unreciprocated though they may be), she stays with Aunt Maud.

Merton is to receive a letter from Mrs. Lowder, requesting that he come to see her. Kate warns him about the letter, but will not give him a hint of what it might be about. He assumes it will concern his seeing Kate and his not being good enough for her. Kate replies that it is because Merton is not good enough for her Aunt Maud. Merton offers to marry Kate the next morning, but Kate wants to wait until he has met with Mrs. Lowder, just in case she might give them some money after all. Kate is not sure that it is more vulgar to marry for money than to marry without it. Merton then agrees to see Mrs. Lowder and “grovel” if Kate wants him to. Kate replies impatiently that he can do what he likes.

Merton goes to Lancaster Gates (the home of Mrs. Lowder) and is kept waiting. As he waits, Merton looks around the room, noting its abundant decorations beyond good taste. At one point, Merton almost tells Kate that her aunt was vulgar, both in her home and in everything she does, because everything she does is over-the-top. He considers writing an article about Mrs. Lowder’s choice of decoration, thinking that this may be the only thing he gets out...

(The entire section is 940 words.)