The Custom of the Country


Edith Wharton

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The Custom of the Country Characters

Undine Spragg

Undine Spragg is the daughter of Mr. Spragg and Mrs. Spragg, and while she originally comes from Apex in the Midwest, her dream is to eventually become a member of the Fifth Avenue society… read analysis of Undine Spragg

Ralph Marvell

Ralph Marvell is Undine Spragg’s second husband and the father of her only child, Paul Marvell. The Marvell family is related to the Dagonet family, and these families both have long, illustrious histories… read analysis of Ralph Marvell

Elmer Moffatt

Elmer Moffatt is Undine Spragg’s first husband; many years after the divorce, he marries her again to become her fourth husband. Like Mr. Spragg and Mrs. Spragg, as well as like Undine herself… read analysis of Elmer Moffatt

Raymond de Chelles

Raymond de Chelles is a French marquis and of Undine Spragg’s third husband. Although his significant wealth and European background seem to differentiate him from Undine’s previous husbands, he ultimately disappoints her just as… read analysis of Raymond de Chelles

Peter Van Degen

Peter Van Degen is Clare Van Degen’s husband. He has a reputation for womanizing and later becomes Undine Spragg’s admirer, though Undine is at that point already married to Ralph Marvell. Although… read analysis of Peter Van Degen
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Clare Van Degen

Clare Van Degen is one of the most important members of New York high society, being part of the Dagonet family by birth and the Van Degen family through her marriage to Peter Van Degenread analysis of Clare Van Degen

Mr. Abner E. Spragg

Mr. Abner E. Spragg Undine Spragg’s father; he’s married to Mrs. Leota B. Spragg. He is wealthy by Apex standards, but he is not quite so wealthy by New York standards. But although… read analysis of Mr. Abner E. Spragg

Paul Marvell

Paul Marvell is Ralph Marvell and Undine Spragg’s son. Although Paul is charming and generally impresses all of the adults who meet him, he struggles to win his mother’s affection. Although Undine occasionally feels… read analysis of Paul Marvell

Claud Walsingham Popple

Claud Popple is a portrait painter who is a member of New York high society, albeit not one of the most respected members. Undine Spragg takes an early interest in him but loses interest when… read analysis of Claud Walsingham Popple

Mrs. Heeny

Mrs. Heeny is a masseuse who in many ways acts as a surrogate parental figure to Undine Spragg in New York City, since Undine’s mother, Mrs. Spragg, doesn’t understand the nuances of Fifth Avenueread analysis of Mrs. Heeny

Representative James J. Rolliver

Representative James J. Rolliver is a major figure in a minor subplot about corrupt business dealings in the Midwestern town Apex. These shady dealings help both Mr. Spragg and Elmer Moffatt become wealthy, as… read analysis of Representative James J. Rolliver

Princess Lili Estradina

Princess Lili Estradina is Raymond de Chelles’s cousin and one of Undine Spragg’s friends Like Raymond, the Princess represents the glamor of European aristocracy, but she also highlights how European nobles often fail… read analysis of Princess Lili Estradina

Indiana Frusk

Indiana Frusk is Undine Spragg’s old friend and rival from back when they both lived in Apex. Although Indiana lived in Undine’s shadow during their younger days, even marrying a man that Undine… read analysis of Indiana Frusk

Mr. Dagonet

Mr. Dagonet is the patriarch of the venerable New York Dagonet family; he’s also Ralph Marvell and Laura Fairford’s grandfather. Despite her reverence for the members of New York high society, Undine Spragg finds… read analysis of Mr. Dagonet

Laura Fairford

Laura Fairford is Ralph Marvell’s sister. She sets into motion all the events of the novel by inviting Undine Spragg to a dinner party on Ralph’s behalf. Laura always tries to be the perfect… read analysis of Laura Fairford

Mabel Lipscomb

Mabel Lipscomb is originally from New York, but she met Undine Spragg at a boarding school in the Midwest. Undine constantly measures herself against the people around her and tries to outdo them, and her… read analysis of Mabel Lipscomb


Celeste is Undine Spragg’s French maid. She hints at how upper-class New York life is only possible due to the largely unseen work performed by servants, and her foreign background also represents how globalized… read analysis of Celeste
Minor Characters
Mrs. Leota B. Spragg
Mrs. Leota B. Spragg is Undine Spragg’s mother and Mr. Abner E. Spragg’s wife. She supports her daughter’s social climbing ambitions, even though she herself doesn’t understand high society or look particularly glamorous.
Harmon B. Driscoll
Harmon B. Driscoll owns the firm in New York where Elmer Moffatt works. Elmer alternately supports and betrays Harmon, depending on which side will pay more, and so ultimately, the once respectable Harmon B. Driscoll becomes little more than a pawn.
The Duchess
The Duchess is Princess Lili Estradina’s mother and Raymond de Chelles’s aunt. Unlike her daughter, the Duchess matches with Undine Spragg’s idea of how a noble should look, but she also shows heavy signs of age.
Hubert de Chelles
Hubert de Chelles is Raymond de Chelles’s brother. He causes problems for his family racking up debts even after he marries an American heiress, exhibiting a compulsion for spending money that mirrors Undine Spragg’s.
The Marquise de Chelles
The Marquise de Chelles is Raymond de Chelles and Hubert de Chelles’s mother. Like the Duchess, she is one of the last survivors of a prior era of nobility, and any remaining glamor she has is directly related to this sense of ruin.
Harry Lipscomb
Harry Lipscomb is Mabel Lipscomb’s husband. He’s a stockbroker who is most notable for exposing one of Undine Spragg’s old fiancés as a fraud.
Charles Bowen
Charles Bowen is an older man who hangs around with Laura Fairford. He shows how high society is populated with hangers-on who attach themselves to others.
Henley Fairford
Henley Fairford is a member of New York high society who marries Laura Fairford, Ralph Marvell’s sister.