The Custom of the Country

by

Edith Wharton

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Laura Fairford Character Analysis

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 hostess, always doing whatever she can to include everyone in conversation and to smooth over any potential unpleasantness. While Laura’s wealth and manners make her the epitome of New York high society, Undine still finds her unimpressive, suggesting that for all Laura’s accomplishments, she lives in an insular world that doesn’t always make sense to outsiders.

Laura Fairford Quotes in The Custom of the Country

The The Custom of the Country quotes below are all either spoken by Laura Fairford or refer to Laura Fairford. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
).
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Undine Spragg—how can you?” her mother wailed, raising a prematurely-wrinkled hand heavy with rings to defend the note which a languid “bell-boy” had just brought in.

But her defence was as feeble as her protest, and she continued to smile on her visitor while Miss Spragg, with a turn of her quick young fingers, possessed herself of the missive and withdrew to the window to read it.

“I guess it’s meant for me,” she merely threw over her shoulder at her mother.

Related Symbols: Apex
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

The dinner too was disappointing. Undine was too young to take note of culinary details, but she had expected to view the company through a bower of orchids and eat pretty-coloured entrees in ruffled papers. Instead, there was only a low centre-dish of ferns, and plain roasted and broiled meat that one could recognize—as if they’d been dyspeptics on a diet! With all the hints in the Sunday papers, she thought it dull of Mrs. Fairford not to have picked up something newer; and as the evening progressed she began to suspect that it wasn’t a real “dinner party,” and that they had just asked her in to share what they had when they were alone.

Related Symbols: Fifth Avenue, Apex
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

Such a company was one to flatter the artist as much his sitter, so completely did it represent that unanimity of opinion which constitutes social strength. Not one the number was troubled by any personal theory of art: all they asked of a portrait was that the costume should be sufficiently “life-like,” and the face not too much so; and a long experience in idealizing flesh and realizing dress-fabrics had enabled Mr. Popple to meet both demands.

Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

Moffatt’s social gifts were hardly of a kind to please the two ladies: he would have shone more brightly in Peter Van Degen’s set than in his wife’s. But neither Clare nor Mrs. Fairford had expected a man of conventional cut, and Moffatt’s loud easiness was obviously less disturbing to them than to their hostess. Undine felt only his crudeness, and the tacit criticism passed on it by the mere presence of such men as her husband and Bowen; but Mrs. Fairford seemed to enjoy provoking him to fresh excesses of slang and hyperbole.

Related Symbols: Apex
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:
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Laura Fairford Character Timeline in The Custom of the Country

The timeline below shows where the character Laura Fairford appears in The Custom of the Country. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...the previous night), but Undine says it isn’t, it’s from Mr. Ralph Marvell’s sister ( Laura Fairford ), inviting her to a dinner party. (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
...than Claud. Hearing this, Undine goes back to the crumpled letter from Ralph’s sister ( Laura Fairford ) and reads it again. (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
In her letter, Laura Fairford invites Undine to a dinner party. Undine finds this strange because Laura has never even... (full context)
Chapter 2
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
...of Fifth Avenue just past it. Undine begins to study the letter she received from Laura Fairford . She is disappointed that the note doesn’t have a monogram on it and begins... (full context)
Chapter 3
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Laura Fairford ’s dinner disappoints Undine. Laura’s house isn’t very impressive, and the dinner itself isn’t anything... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
...time she met him. He is small and pale, with a little blond mustache. Although Laura Fairford talks well at the party, Undine feels that the people of Apex talk even more,... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The women go to the drawing room. While Undine appreciates how Laura Fairford doesn’t mention that Undine is new to New York, she gets uncomfortable when Laura asks... (full context)
Chapter 4
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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...box at the opera for the next Friday. He and Mrs. Spragg had hoped that Laura Fairford ’s dinner would make Undine a little less excitable, but it seems to have had... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
...meet people. Still at a stalemate, Undine decides to go see an art gallery that Laura Fairford mentioned to her at the dinner party. (full context)
Chapter 7
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...expected. She can tell that Mrs. Marvell doesn’t approve of her impending marriage to Ralph. Laura Fairford (Ralph’s sister) tries to make everyone get along. (full context)
Chapter 8
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The discussion about divorce makes dinner a little tense, but Laura Fairford tries to smooth things over by escorting Ralph and Undine over to the theater for... (full context)
Chapter 12
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...Mr. Dagonet for more, although when Undine persists that he should ask his sister ( Laura Fairford ), he says he’ll see. Eventually, Ralph does send Laura a cable. Laura gets back... (full context)
Chapter 13
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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...eventually gets her to give up on the yacht trip (although he has to ask Laura Fairford for more money to get home). (full context)
Chapter 15
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Meanwhile at the Dagonet place, Laura Fairford is waiting for Undine to bring Paul but after the long delay figures Undine must... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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Just then, Ralph’s late arrival interrupts Laura Fairford and Charles Bowen’s conversation about American marriages. Ralph thinks that perhaps he’s missed the party,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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Corruption Theme Icon
Undine invites Elmer to a dinner with Ralph, Laura Fairford , Clare, and Charles Bowen. Ralph is impressed with Elmer and the others are interested... (full context)
Chapter 19
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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...sitting at a restaurant in Paris, thinking about a letter he might eventually write to Laura Fairford . He is dining with a French marquis named Raymond de Chelles, and they discuss... (full context)
Chapter 20
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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...enjoy his money, he also hoped she’d enjoy it less quickly. The other is from Laura Fairford , telling her that lately Ralph has been overworked and in a bad mood. (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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...Raymond. Undine refuses to give a straight answer about this. Just then, a telegram from Laura Fairford , interrupts their conversation, informing Undine that Ralph has pneumonia and that Undine should head... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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...Undine has suddenly gone so pale. She just crumples the telegram up and says that Laura Fairford is telling her that Ralph wants her back at once. Peter says he’ll do something... (full context)
Chapter 22
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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Corruption Theme Icon
...becomes ill and goes through life in a daze. People around him stop mentioning Undine. Laura Fairford stops by to help take care of Ralph. Eventually, in his illness, Ralph becomes delirious... (full context)
Chapter 23
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...and he decides not to fight the divorce after all. He gets angry however, when Laura Fairford comes over and speaks to Paul as if Undine is dead and never coming back. (full context)
Chapter 31
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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...her home, although he occasionally sees her when they both go to see his sister, Laura Fairford , out in the country. One evening, he finally tells Clare that he’s been writing,... (full context)
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Ralph spends the night at Laura Fairford ’s place, feeling pleased about where his book is at, but the next morning in... (full context)