Learning Unit 9

November 28, 2011

The Custom of the Country, Edith Warthon
Chapter XI

“He turned the hand over and traced the course of its blue veins from the wrist to the rounding of the palm below the fingers; then he put a kiss in the warm hollow between. The upper world had vanished: his universe had shrunk to the palm of a hand. But there was no sense of diminution. In the mystic depths whence his passion sprang, earthly dimensions were ignored and the curve of beauty was boundless enough to hold whatever the imagination could pour into it. Ralph had never felt more convinced of his power to write a great poem; but now it was Undine’s hand which held the magic wand of expression.” (Warthon)

As soon as Ralph married Undine his “upper world had vanished”, she manipulated him to marrying her. His “universe had shrunk” into her artificial desires. “Blue veins” symbolize the depression that will undertake Ralph when he ultimately finds out the truth behind Undine. Undine has the power over Ralph, “which held the magic wand of expression”, she can control his feelings and wants. Undine’s relentless to go further at no cost, where she pursues him seems very serpent like where she goes in and out in “mystic depths” towards his passions. Here on their honeymoon, Ralph realizes that Undine has the control over his emotions and feelings. Her beauty has overtaken him, “then he put a kiss in the warm hollow between”. There’s a space between them where Undine has poured her vivacity. Ralph’s world will never be as the same as he once had it, he now shares everything with Undine. She wants this social status and power that Ralph has leading him “boundless enough to hold” his own against her. Undine represents something coming undone, unbound, she finally unveils herself to Ralph.

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