When Vivian is nineteen, her lively friends Lillian and Emily invite her on a trip to Minneapolis to see The Wizard of Oz. Mrs. Nielsen encourages Vivian to go, because she worries that Vivian spends too much time working and studying. After they arrive and check into a “ladies’ hotel,” Vivian realizes that her friends’ actual plan is to visit the local nightclubs. Despite her hesitation, Vivian is excited. Vivian and Emily go to the “picture show” while Lillian visits her fiancée, Richard. The movie captivates Vivian. She marvels at the magic of Oz and reflects on how Dorothy’s “black and white” home is “already populated with the only characters she’ll ever know.” Afterward they meet up with Lillian and Richard. Vivian worries she seems prudish among her sophisticated peers, But as they walk to dinner, her “spirits lift” with the feeling that it is “marvelous to be young on a big-city street.”
Mrs. Nielsen’s view that Vivian spends too much time working and studying shows what a serious young woman Vivian has become. This is probably partly because she still feels the need to please the Nielsens and maintain their approval, but her serious disposition likely also stems from the sobering effect of her earlier life experiences. Still, Vivian’s sense of excitement and her “lift[ed] spirits” suggest that just like her more carefree peers, she wants to experience the freedom and thrill of exploring the world as a young person. Her reflections on the movie reveal her underlying boredom with her present life and her desire for adventure.
Richard ushers Lillian, Emily, and Vivian to the Grand Hotel for dinner. Upon seeing all of the rich, well-dressed patrons stare at Lillian and Emily’s “provocative” outfits, Vivian feels glad that she wore more modest clothing. With his arms around both girls’ waists, the “freewheeling” Richard takes Lillian and Emily into the bar. Vivian stays behind, mesmerized by the elegant lobby. Besides, she is “in no hurry” to join Richard, who makes her feel “old-fashioned and humorless.” A thin, well-dressed blonde man approaches and tells her she looks familiar. His gazes “makes [her] blush.” He calls her Niamh, and she suddenly realizes it is Dutchy.
Vivian’s relief that she isn’t attracting the same judgment as her friends shows how a sense of belonging can shift from one moment to the next depending on the social context. Vivian’s negative feelings toward Richard highlight how she judges the character of others based on her own values rather than popular standards. After all of these years, Niamh and Dutchy’s promise to find each other has been realized in this climactic moment. Just as when she was young, his gaze still “makes [her] blush.”