Although Bertrand insists that Julia “adores” his sense of humor, Julia confesses to herself that Bertrand’s nasty joking makes her feel foolish. She changes the subject, asking Bertrand if he’s been to visit Mamé recently, to which he responds in the negative. As she leaves the apartment, Julia once again contemplates her reflection in the elevator mirror and thinks for the first time that she’s had enough of Bertrand’s humor.
For the first of several times in the novel, Julia begins to suspect that she has reached a turning point in her marriage. This chapter shows Julia struggling with her identity not only as a wife but as an aging woman. As her storyline unfolds, Julia will struggle to establish her identity on her own terms, separate from her marriage to Bertrand. This chapter also gestures at the profound effect that time can have on a person’s physical sense of self, which foregrounds the novel’s later exploration of the toll of time on characters’ emotional lives.