The Custom of the Country

by

Edith Wharton

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The Custom of the Country: Chapter 33 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Over the course of Ralph’s visit, he manages to convince Mr. Spragg to talk with Undine’s lawyers to try to prevent them from taking away Paul. But Mrs. Spragg seems eager to support her daughter in trying to get Paul. A few days later, Ralph goes to Mr. Spragg’s office and gets the news that a letter has confirmed that Undine won’t budge on Paul. Mrs. Heeny will be taking him to Paris at once. Mr. Spragg doesn’t necessarily support this, but he doesn’t try to help Ralph anymore either.
As usual, Mr. Spragg resists taking a strong position. He acts friendly towards Ralph, and he might even feel genuine sympathy, but he also shows little desire to contradict his daughter. Unlike Mr. Dagonet, Mr. Spragg feels no responsibility to protect Ralph from harsh realities.
Themes
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
As Ralph leaves Mr. Spragg’s office, he recalls that Mr. Spragg’s office is where he first met Elmer. He quickly forgets Elmer and begins daydreaming about how he might hide Paul away to prevent him from being taken. He then goes to Clare to tell her all about his recent problems. He complains the cost of fighting Undine in court will be expensive. Clare suggests that instead of involving the courts, maybe he should just pay some money to Undine directly. Ralph thinks Undine wants Paul for respectability, but Clare feels it’s even simpler: Undine wants more money. Clare promises to help get Paul back, although she warns that it could be expensive, since Undine will be too embarrassed to sell Paul cheaply.
Once again, Ralph takes refuge from the difficulties of his real life by daydreaming. He dreams of taking action and becoming the sort of man who would do anything to protect his family, but previous chapters have made it clear that Ralph’s daydreams seldom translate into the real world. Just as Undine has Elmer to give her advice, Ralph has Clare, and unlike the Spraggs, Clare doesn’t mince words when describing what Undine’s intentions are.
Themes
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Quotes