The Custom of the Country

by

Edith Wharton

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The Stentorian Symbol Analysis

The Stentorian Symbol Icon

The Stentorian is the hotel in New York City where Undine Spragg stays with her family, and it represents the start of Undine’s journey to climb the social ladder. The hotel simultaneously represents the glamor of urban life while also representing something less glamorous than the even more desirable Fifth Avenue. Living in New York, in such a hotel, shows how far Undine has come from her start in Apex, but it also highlights how far she has to go if she ever wants to make it to Fifth Avenue, her ultimate goal.

In various ways, the Stentorian highlights the Spragg family’s middling wealth (compared to those who live on Fifth Avenue) and the hustle and bustle of upper-class city life. The word “stentorian” literally means loud (usually referring to a person’s voice), and this ties into both the bustle of life in the city as well as to the showy, intense lives of the people who make up New York’s upper echelon. Additionally, although the Spraggs stay in the Stentorian for quite a while, hotels suggest temporary living arrangements, and this impermanence clearly differentiates Mr. Spragg’s new wealth from the older, more established wealth of men like Mr. Dagonet or Raymond de Chelles (both of whom own property that has been in their families for a long time).

The Stentorian Quotes in The Custom of the Country

The The Custom of the Country quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Stentorian. 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 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 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 38 Quotes

In a window of the long gallery of the chateau de Saint Desert the new Marquise de Chelles stood looking down the poplar avenue into the November rain. It had been raining heavily and persistently for a longer time than she could remember. Day after day the hills beyond the park had been curtained by motionless clouds, the gutters of the long steep roofs had gurgled with a perpetual overflow, the opaque surface of the moat been peppered by a continuous pelting of big drops.

Related Characters: Undine Spragg, Raymond de Chelles
Related Symbols: The Stentorian, Fifth Avenue
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 40 Quotes

“Sell it? Sell Saint Desert?”

The suggestion seemed to strike him as something monstrously, almost fiendishly significant: as if her random word had at last thrust into his hand the clue to their whole unhappy difference. Without understanding this, she guessed it from the change in his face: it was as if a deadly solvent had suddenly decomposed its familiar lines.

Related Characters: Raymond de Chelles (speaker), Undine Spragg, Peter Van Degen
Related Symbols: The Stentorian
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Stentorian Symbol Timeline in The Custom of the Country

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Stentorian 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
Undine Spragg, who is staying at a luxurious hotel in New York called the Stentorian with her mother (Mrs. Leota B. Spragg) and a woman named Mrs. Heeny, receives... (full context)
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 dinner party... (full context)
Chapter 2
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Undine’s room at the Stentorian is white and gold, with a view of Central Park and a view of... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Still in the past, Harry Lipscomb investigated Undine’s new Austrian fiancé and found that he fled Krakow to... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
After the Spraggs first arrived at the Stentorian, Mabel Lipscomb introduced Undine to the local society. While... (full context)
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... (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... (full context)
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Back at the Stentorian, Undine is disappointed thinking that she’ll probably never see Peter again, and she’s also... (full context)
Chapter 8
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
When Undine gets back to her bedroom at the Stentorian that night, she is surprised to see Mrs. Spragg waiting there, eager to hear... (full context)
Chapter 9
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Corruption Theme Icon
Undine heads back to the Stentorian, hoping for solitude, but Ralph is there waiting for her. They talk about wedding... (full context)
Chapter 26
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...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 finds it difficult to talk to her... (full context)
Chapter 40
Marriage and Divorce Theme Icon
Materialism and Ambition Theme Icon
After Princess Estradina leaves, Undine continues to idle away the long days at Saint Desert. She amuses herself by trying to annoy the Marquise de... (full context)