The Custom of the Country

by

Edith Wharton

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Mr. Abner E. Spragg Character Analysis

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 Mr. Spragg frequently complains of bills and his own bad financial situation, he almost never turns down his daughter when she asks for something. Mr. Spragg’s new money contrasts with established New York families like the Dagonets—Mr. Spragg lived humbly until he became part of a legally dubious scheme involving Representative James J. Rolliver and water purification in Apex. Mr. Spragg’s defining trait is his gently ironic sense of humor. As an outsider in wealthy society, he remains amused by the new world he inhabits, and his attitude seems to be that it’s easier to go along with things rather than trying to change them.

Mr. Abner E. Spragg Quotes in The Custom of the Country

The The Custom of the Country quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Abner E. Spragg or refer to Mr. Abner E. Spragg. 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 2 Quotes

She went to the window, and drawing back its many layers of lace gazed eastward down the long brownstone perspective. Beyond the Park lay Fifth Avenue—and Fifth Avenue was where she wanted to be!

Related Symbols: The Stentorian, Fifth Avenue
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Mr. Spragg mused. “Wasn’t he ever taught to work?”

“No; I really couldn’t have afforded that.”

Related Characters: Mr. Abner E. Spragg (speaker), Mr. Dagonet (speaker), Ralph Marvell, Undine Spragg
Page Number: 74
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:
Chapter 22 Quotes

“Do you mean to tell me that Undine’s divorcing me?”

“I presume that’s her plan,” Mr. Spragg admitted.

“For desertion?” Ralph pursued, still laughing.

His father-in-law hesitated a moment; then he answered: “You’ve always done all you could for my daughter. There wasn’t any other plea she could think of. She presumed this would be the most agreeable to your family.”

Related Characters: Ralph Marvell (speaker), Mr. Abner E. Spragg (speaker), Undine Spragg
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mr. Abner E. Spragg Character Timeline in The Custom of the Country

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Abner E. Spragg 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
Corruption Theme Icon
Mr. Abner E. Spragg (Undine’s father) comes back to the Stentorian. Mrs. Spragg proudly tells her husband about the... (full context)
Chapter 2
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Back in the present at the Stentorian, Undine goes to her parents and finds Mr. Spragg sitting next to Mrs. Spragg with her head drooping. Undine hints to her father that... (full context)
Chapter 4
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Undine returns to the Stentorian. The next morning at breakfast, she tells Mr. Spragg that he needs to get her a box at the opera for the next Friday.... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
By invoking Mabel Lipscomb and the idea of reciprocity, Undine starts to convince Mr. Spragg to get the tickets. Undine pleads that she only wants an opera box once, and... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
...her mother she still wants an opera box. Her mother tries to explain that while Mr. Spragg was rich for Apex, he’s not quite so rich in New York. Undine asks why... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Back in the present, Mr. Spragg comes into Undine’s room and lets her know that he has gotten her an opera... (full context)
Chapter 6
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
...his earlier visit with Mrs. Spragg to learn more about Undine’s background. He learned that Mr. Spragg was poor when he first came to Apex, but eventually, he managed to take over... (full context)
Chapter 9
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Undine says she was surprised to learn that Elmer was in town— Mr. Spragg didn’t tell her about seeing him earlier. Undine says she never felt as afraid of... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
...Elmer had to get out of Apex after some “unpleasantness” between him and Undine made Mr. Spragg and Mrs. Spragg turn against him, and they turned the rest of Apex against him... (full context)
Chapter 10
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
When Mr. Spragg first arrived on Wall Street, he kept many of his qualities from Apex, but there... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...says he couldn’t teach Ralph how to work because it would’ve been too expensive. Eventually, Mr. Spragg realizes that Mr. Dagonet is asking him to help contribute to supporting his daughter and... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Mr. Spragg finds that supporting Undine and Ralph will cost him so much money that he recommends... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Mr. Spragg talks to Mrs. Spragg about how he just doesn’t think he can come up with... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Instead of doing anything, however, Mr. Spragg ignores the problems for a little while. Then one day, Elmer comes up to him... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
...out of Harmon B. Driscoll’s office. He promises not to interfere with Undine’s wedding if Mr. Spragg just shows up at the Driscoll office before 5 PM and tells what he knows... (full context)
Chapter 12
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...Ralph, however, is even more worried about a check he is supposed to receive from Mr. Spragg , which might not even be enough to cover their expenses. One day, Ralph finds... (full context)
Chapter 17
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...to the Adirondacks, where there’s no one she wants to see. She goes to see Mr. Spragg at the office to ask about going to Europe. Mr. Spragg treats his daughter’s requests... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Mr. Spragg doesn’t believe Undine has a good reason to need to go to Europe, so she... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Undine found the right way to upset Mr. Spragg . He says that Ralph barely works at all. Undine adds that the Dagonets and... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Mr. Spragg says that the problem with going away to somewhere like Europe is that you always... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Elmer says he’s there to see Mr. Spragg on business. They go off together and close the door behind them, while Undine tries... (full context)
Chapter 18
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...feel like she’ll fail this time. She cautiously brings up the topic of divorce. While Mr. Spragg doesn’t oppose divorce, he is shocked when Undine suggests that she’d consider divorcing Ralph because... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
...eager to reverse his poor record at his real estate company. He decides to ask Mr. Spragg for advice. (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Mr. Spragg tells Ralph that he doesn’t see the trouble with the arrangement, as long as no... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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On his way out of Elmer’s office, Ralph runs into Mr. Spragg . Mr. Spragg asks how Ralph knows Elmer, and Ralph mentions the dinner Undine hosted... (full context)
Chapter 21
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
...with Elmer raised his standing in the company. Occasionally, he takes Paul over to see Mr. Spragg and Mrs. Spragg, hoping to bring her back by bringing their families closer together (although... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Sometimes, when Ralph visits Mr. Spragg and Mrs. Spragg with Paul, Mrs. Heeny is also visiting. She often gives Paul sweets... (full context)
Chapter 22
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
...of Ralph. Eventually, in his illness, Ralph becomes delirious and forgets that Undine isn’t around. Mr. Spragg also visits Ralph and tells him that Harmon B. Driscoll is again facing a possible... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Ralph eventually feels well enough to meet Mr. Spragg in his office. Ralph is shocked to learn from Mr. Spragg that Undine is back... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Ralph says he intends to make the divorce as difficult as he can. He asks Mr. Spragg if Undine expects Peter to marry her. Mr. Spragg says his daughter is currently alone... (full context)
Chapter 26
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Undine finally returns to New York. She goes to see her parents but regrets that Mr. Spragg and Mrs. Spragg can’t move from the Stentorian to somewhere closer to Fifth Avenue. Undine... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...Undine is when she hears Mabel Lipscomb has remarried. After getting the news, she tells Mr. Spragg that he must take her to the opera that night. (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Undine goes with Mr. Spragg to the opera and sees many people she knows, including Clare. Although Undine thinks Clare... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Mr. Spragg at first resists Undine’s request that he come to Europe with her. Eventually, however, both... (full context)
Chapter 32
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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Ralph goes to see Mr. Spragg and Mrs. Spragg while they’re at dinner. Ralph asks what’s going on with Paul, and... (full context)
Chapter 33
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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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... (full context)
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Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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As Ralph leaves Mr. Spragg ’s office, he recalls that Mr. Spragg’s office is where he first met Elmer. He... (full context)
Chapter 35
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
...back in Apex, he and Undine eloped, although they only had about two weeks before Mr. Spragg stepped in with his lawyers to undo the marriage, with some help from Representative James... (full context)
Chapter 44
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
...again, and she puts aside being cautious. She has given up on any hope of Mr. Spragg ever making it big on Wall Street, so there’s no use relying on him as... (full context)