The Custom of the Country

by

Edith Wharton

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Custom of the Country can help.

The Custom of the Country: Chapter 28 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Princess Estradina suggests to Undine one day that they should go to Nice. Undine is still worried that one of her old friends will turn the Princess against her, but she’s excited at the prospect of going to Nice. They have a nice trip at first, but then the Princess says she must go visit a sick friend. Undine doesn’t believe her and is angry about being abandoned. She goes to a tea-room and is surprised to see Elmer in the crowd.
The Princess was vague about the details of her divorce earlier, and it seems here that she is using Undine to disguise what she’s really up to. Undine herself often does this sort of thing, and now she finds that it’s less fun to be on the receiving end. But before she can draw any sort of lesson from this, she happens to spot Elmer Moffatt, who, with all his sudden, unexpected appearances, seems to embody something like chance or fate.
Themes
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Although it has been a long time since Undine has had any sort of contact with Elmer, she is annoyed to see that he isn’t alone—he’s with a woman in a very showy feathered hat. Elmer looks happy with his companion;  Undine feels that Elmer wants her to see him looking happy, which she finds pitiable. Undine’s thoughts are interrupted when she feels Raymond taking her hand.
Once again, Undine gets a taste of her own medicine. While previously she tried to make Ralph and Peter jealous by flirting with other men, now she finds Elmer trying to make her jealous with another woman. But once again, a sudden interruption stops Undine from learning anything from the experience.
Themes
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Although Raymond seems as infatuated with Undine as ever, she has learned to be cautious. He just happens to be in Nice to see his aunt, the Duchess. Over the next few weeks, Undine and Princess Estradina come back to Nice several times, but Undine refuses to let the Princess invite Raymond to any of their lunches. The Princess confesses at one point that she’s really going to Nice in order to see a lover that she can’t see publicly (because of her marriage), and she hoped to return the favor by putting Undine in contact with Raymond. But Undine maintains that she has no desire to see Raymond.
While Undine learned some lessons from her failed relationship with Peter, she still hesitates to be honest about her interest in Raymond. While the Duchess and Princess’s society might differ from New York City’s high society, both groups value discretion, leading people to hold back what they want to say for fear of saying the wrong, impolite thing.
Themes
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon