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.
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 Avenue high society. While Mrs. Heeny is herself more of an observer than a member of high society, her obsession with saving newspaper clippings (especially from the society pages) gives her a solid understanding of how the New York social world moves. She kickstarts Undine’s social ambitions, encouraging her to try to improve her status. Mrs. Heeny lives out her own fantasies of social climbing vicariously through Undine.

Mrs. Heeny Quotes in The Custom of the Country

The The Custom of the Country quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Heeny or refer to Mrs. Heeny. 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 5 Quotes

It had become clear to Undine that Mabel Lipscomb was ridiculous. That was the reason why Popple did not come to the box. No one would care to be seen talking to her while Mabel was at her side. […] She had a way of trumpeting out her ignorances that jarred on Undine’s subtler methods. It was precisely at this point that there dawned on Undine what was to be one of the guiding principles of her career: “It’s better to watch than to ask questions.”

Related Symbols: The Stentorian, Fifth Avenue
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

Undine, without answering, caught up the pearls and thrust them into

Mrs. Heeny’s hands.

“Good land alive!” The masseuse dropped into a chair and let the twist slip through her fat flexible fingers. “Well, you got a fortune right round your neck whenever you wear them, Undine Spragg.”

Undine murmured something indistinguishable. “I want you to take them—” she began.

Related Characters: Undine Spragg (speaker), Mrs. Heeny (speaker), Peter Van Degen
Page Number: 231
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Custom of the Country LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Custom of the Country PDF

Mrs. Heeny Character Timeline in The Custom of the Country

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Heeny 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
...York called the Stentorian with her mother (Mrs. Leota B. Spragg) and a woman named Mrs. Heeny , receives a letter and takes it away so that she can read it on... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Mrs. Heeny says she knows of a portrait painter named Claud Popple and that he’s “in it,”... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...a dinner party. Undine finds this strange because Laura has never even seen her, but Mrs. Heeny says that Ralph has seen her and that often a young man will use his... (full context)
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
...York to enlarge her social circle, but so far, Undine has made little progress. Now, Mrs. Heeny advises Mrs. Spragg that Undine must get in with the right crowd because the wrong... (full context)
Chapter 2
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Undine comes out of her room just as Mrs. Heeny is about to take her leave of Mrs. Spragg. Mrs. Heeny lingers, telling Undine she... (full context)
Chapter 7
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Two months later, Mrs. Heeny comes to visit Undine. She points out a Tiffany engagement ring that Undine is wearing... (full context)
Chapter 21
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 that the Dagonets forbid him from having.... (full context)
Chapter 26
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...often makes the column due to his world traveling, frequently mentioned alongside his wife, Clare. Mrs. Heeny clips any social news that Undine happens to miss. The worst for Undine is when... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
One day, Undine abruptly hands her pearls to Mrs. Heeny and tells her to take them. Mrs. Heeny is confused. At first Mrs. Heeny thinks... (full context)
Chapter 32
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...good mood, he gets a message from his mother that Mrs. Spragg called and said Mrs. Heeny was coming to fetch Paul. Later, Ralph gets a letter addressed to him which seems... (full context)
Chapter 33
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 37
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Months ago, when Mrs. Heeny first arrived with Paul, she stayed for about two weeks. Undine enjoyed hearing New York... (full context)
Chapter 46
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...live in, and Paul wanders around the big building alone. He remembers a conversation with Mrs. Heeny (whom Undine brought back from America) about how she has some newspaper clippings to show... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Paul asks Mrs. Heeny why Undine married Elmer. Mrs. Heeny says it was because Undine got divorced. She provides... (full context)