The Custom of the Country

by

Edith Wharton

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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 sympathy toward Paul, she generally puts her own needs and wants above his. In fact, she even weaponizes her custody of Paul as an attempt to get money out of Ralph, which ultimately leads to Ralph’s suicide. In the story, Paul plays the role of the innocent victim, showing the dark side and the dire consequences of Undine’s selfishness.

Paul Marvell Quotes in The Custom of the Country

The The Custom of the Country quotes below are all either spoken by Paul Marvell or refer to Paul Marvell . 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 30 Quotes

“You couldn’t, up to now; but now you’re going to get married. You’re going to be able to give him a home and a father’s care—and the foreign languages. That’s what I’d say if I was you…His father takes considerable stock in him, don’t he?”

She coloured, a denial on her lips; but she could not shape it. “We’re both awfully fond of him, of course… His father’d never give him up!”

“Just so.” Moffatt’s face had grown as sharp as glass. “You’ve got the Marvells running. All you’ve got to do’s to sit tight and wait for their cheque.” He dropped back to his equestrian seat on the lyre-backed chair.

Related Characters: Elmer Moffatt (speaker), Undine Spragg (speaker), Paul Marvell , Ralph Marvell, Raymond de Chelles
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 33 Quotes

“But shall I tell you what I think, my dear? You and I are both completely out-of-date. I don’t believe Undine cares a straw for ‘the appearance of respectability.’ What she wants is the money for her annulment.”

Related Characters: Clare Van Degen (speaker), Ralph Marvell, Undine Spragg, Paul Marvell
Page Number: 273
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 35 Quotes

Within forty-eight hours Ralph’s money was in Moffatt’s hands, and the interval of suspense had begun.

The transaction over, he felt the deceptive buoyancy that follows on periods of painful indecision. It seemed to him that now at last life had freed him from all trammelling delusions, leaving him only the best thing in its gift—his boy.

Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

For a moment he was conscious of seeing it in every detail with a distinctness he had never before known; then everything in it vanished but the single narrow panel of a drawer under one of the bookcases. He went up to the drawer, knelt down and slipped his hand into it.

As he raised himself he listened again, and this time he distinctly heard the old servant’s steps on the stairs. He passed his left hand over the side of his head, and down the curve of the skull behind the ear. He said to himself: “My wife … this will make it all right for her….” and a last flash of irony twitched through him. Then he felt again, more deliberately, for the spot he wanted, and put the muzzle of his revolver against it.

Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:
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Paul Marvell Character Timeline in The Custom of the Country

The timeline below shows where the character Paul Marvell appears in The Custom of the Country. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 14
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...be away from Fifth Avenue when she was pregnant, but giving birth to her son, Paul Marvell, has interfered with her plans to get into a better house near Fifth Avenue. (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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...she settles in for the ride, but all of a sudden, she realizes that it’s Paul’s birthday and she was supposed to take him to his grandmother’s, but she forgot. (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 have simply forgotten. She talks with Charles... (full context)
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...the party, but then he finds the cake uncut and learns that Undine never brought Paul to his own birthday party. Ralph hears a horn outside and thinks it’s Undine, but... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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...When Ralph confronts Undine about missing the birthday, Undine blames the nurse for not taking Paul over. She says the portrait viewing went late, even though Clare told Ralph it was... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Undine, meanwhile, is surprised at how well Ralph took her missing Paul’s birthday. She still likes some aspects of Ralph, but their money problems are driving a... (full context)
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Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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...the successful ball, however, she has a nervous breakdown, right around the same time when Paul is very ill, adding even more to their family expenses. Undine feels like Peter sometimes... (full context)
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...point, but Undine says she probably won’t get away farther than the Adirondacks because of Paul. Peter asks if there’s any way he can straighten things out for her, but Undine... (full context)
Chapter 18
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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...it harder to hide her excitement. A day or two before her departure, she takes Paul to see Mr. Dagonet, and on the way back, she runs into Elmer. Elmer says... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...write back to her. Her letters don’t seem particularly concerned with Ralph’s welfare or even Paul’s. (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
...even though his deal 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... (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 that the Dagonets forbid him... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...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 26
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...difficult to talk to her parents and goes silent whenever the topic of their grandson, Paul, comes up. (full context)
Chapter 29
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...to a letter she received recently from Mrs. Spragg, who is still missing her grandson, Paul. Undine feels a tightness in her throat when she thinks of Paul growing up without... (full context)
Chapter 30
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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...bribe the Pope on her behalf, but then he becomes more sympathetic and asks if Paul is with her. Undine regretfully says no but claims that she got “everything” in the... (full context)
Chapter 32
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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...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 to be a legal letter... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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...the only option is to prove Undine has some ulterior motive for wanting custody of Paul. (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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...Mr. Spragg and Mrs. Spragg while they’re at dinner. Ralph asks what’s going on with Paul, and Mr. Spragg calmly asks if he got the letter yet. Ralph says the whole... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...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... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 34
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For several weeks, Ralph frets over how to raise enough money to buy back Paul—his lawyers confirm that Clare’s guess about Undine’s motivations is correct. Ralph is reluctant to allow... (full context)
Chapter 35
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...have resolved his long period of indecision before meeting with Elmer. He has enjoyed watching Paul grow up, and his book is coming along too. Ralph doesn’t get to see Clare... (full context)
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...but Elmer says it’s still a safe deal that will pay off eventually. Ralph explains Paul’s custody situation and why he can’t wait any longer for the money. Elmer understands and... (full context)
Chapter 36
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...involved. He’s still worried about the money he owes Undine if he wants to keep Paul. He hears the servant coming back, so he bolts the door of his room. He... (full context)
Chapter 37
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Several months later, Paul is shy in his new grandparents’ drawing room, where portraits of ladies and gentlemen hang... (full context)
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Months ago, when Mrs. Heeny first arrived with Paul, she stayed for about two weeks. Undine enjoyed hearing New York gossip, while Mrs. Heeny... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
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...Consolidation Company. The money goes to Undine because she never formally surrendered her custody over Paul, even if she did hold off on enforcing it in the immediate aftermath of Ralph’s... (full context)
Chapter 38
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...be away for long. At first, Undine liked it at Saint Desert. The usually sweet Paul had begun to irritate her in their crowded Paris residence, but the chateau gave him... (full context)
Chapter 41
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...on her own for 24 hours, claiming that she’s looking for a new nurse for Paul. In reality, she has a plan of her own. (full context)
Chapter 46
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In the library of a private hotel, Paul looks out a window at Paris in twilight. He’s nine years old and has just... (full context)
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Paul still likes Raymond best out of all his fathers, but Raymond has totally disappeared from... (full context)
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Paul asks Mrs. Heeny why Undine married Elmer. Mrs. Heeny says it was because Undine got... (full context)
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Paul happens to notice some tapestries that used to hang in Raymond’s chateau at Saint Desert.... (full context)