Aug 22, 2014

Chapters 11-20, "The Custom of the Country", by Edith Wharton

Undine's ambition, bad taste, and selfishness seem to be growing as we advance in the book and her life. 
In these chapters, the marriage takes place and the marriage ends. Does it happen too fast, too slow, or do you find it has the perfect pace?
We get to know Undine as a wife and mother, and we see how these "circumstances" don't seem to change much her aspirations and rhythm of life.  
Although the book is a constant critic of the American society it portraits, at one point in these chapters the author provides a direct and explicit analysis of the man-woman relationship and "the customs of the country" through the character of Mr. Bowen. Do you agree with his vision? Do you think it belongs to the old times or do you see something of it in nowadays society? What about his perception of the European marriage?

Looking forward to keep reading your thoughts!


  1. I'm typing this comment for the second time, the first one lost somewhere in cyberspace (if it exists at all).
    So I'll be brief... Gender relationships has changed something, but still, problems in relationships are there, people marry (or don't marry and live with) someone they think perfect, and then, reality comes!
    I was not surprised by the view of European marriages, basically French, but shocked by the New York versus South views... wasn't it the opposite?

    1. Do you mean that you thought that in New York customs would be more liberal and permissive regarding male-female relationships while in the South it would be more conservative and/or oppressive?
      Because that's what I thought (although I am not sure where I got that impression from). Not exactly North vs South, because Apex is suppose to be Midwest, but interior town vs coast city, and little town vs big city.
      However, from certain comments, mainly from Undine, it seems that in Apex there was more permissiveness or liberty in the female-male relationships, in and out of marriage.
      Or is it maybe just Undine's impression? Could it have something to do with the different "class" of people she was used to mingle with in one place and the other?

  2. Although I appreciate and value how difficult and original must be to write a book with a protagonist so dislikable as Undine, and I very much appreciate the book as a wonderful novel, I find it exasperating. She is too horrible to even be real. Too cold, too manipulative, too vain, too self-centered... Too much. And reading about her whereabouts, thoughts, and plans is too much too!
    I liked very much the moment in which Ralph had his eyes opened; or when Bowen provides his social analysis on American men and their relationship with money and their wives. The presentation that Mrs. Wharton does of "the customs of the country" is wonderful. It is very interesting how using the omnipresent narrator figure she presents each character's perspective and understanding of their world.
    But still, the parts in which the perspective presented is Undine's, I find them difficult to tolerate... However, at the same time, I want to keep learning about the story!

  3. I have already finished the book? How are you progressing? I feel tempted to make my final comments, but it would be too revealing... However, I can say that the end is very good! Sounds so real... hahaha, now keep on!


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