As she brushes her teeth and readies herself for bed, Bernice thinks on the disappointments that her summer visits with Marjorie bring. For one, Marjorie seems wholly uninterested in female companionship; she “considered girls stupid,” and never indulged in the “confidences flavored with giggles and tears” that Bernice considers an essential part of female bonding. Second, Bernice cannot understand why she is so unpopular outside of her hometown. Back home in Eau Claire, she has no trouble getting positive attention—and she cannot grasp that this is because her family, the wealthiest in the community, has set her up for success with dinners, parties, and a car of her own. Bernice is completely ignorant of her cousin’s role in what few dances she had that evening—and furthermore, she cannot draw a correlation between her failure and the success of girls she considers “unscrupulous.”
Because she has never truly participated in teenage culture, Bernice is still a child in many ways that her peers are not. She has yet to stop drinking the “warm milk” of the fanciful literature she grew up reading, which informs more of her worldview than reality does. Believing that a woman succeeds socially by possessing the “mysterious womanly qualities” of the heroines from her books, she cannot perceive the actual causes of her success: money, class privilege, and the unseen help of family.
Deciding on a whim to chat with her Aunt Josephine before bed, Bernice goes down the hall to hear voices coming from her aunt’s room. Not intending to eavesdrop, she lingers outside and overhears the conversation. Marjorie is complaining to her mother that Bernice is “absolutely hopeless” socially, and that no amount of old-fashioned feminine grace can salvage her dull, unfriendly personality. Mrs. Harvey dismisses Marjorie’s view as overly concerned with “cheap popularity,” yet Marjorie pushes ahead. She describes how all of her hints about boys, beauty, and fashion were coldly received—and so judges Bernice to be prudish, self-righteous, and jealous. She speculates, half-jokingly, that it’s “that crazy Indian blood in Bernice” which makes her unsociable, as “Indian women all just sat round and never said anything.” Mrs. Harvey laughs, yet says dismissively that she thinks Marjorie’s ideas are “perfectly idiotic.” By the time Marjorie leaves her mother’s room, Bernice has left the hallway.
This conversation shows the limits of both Marjorie’s perspective and Mrs. Harvey’s. The latter sees marriage as a young woman’s main goal in life, and a source of status—while Marjorie’s idea of status, popularity at parties, hinges on the fact that she is single. Neither woman can understand the premise for the other’s argument, and so each simply repeat her own argument without really engaging the other person’s point of view. It should also be noted that both Marjorie and her mother show a close-mindedness of the upper class—not just in their shared focus on parties and leisure, but also in their casual racism towards Bernice.