Study Guide

A Great and Terrible Beauty Chapter 3

By Libba Bray

Chapter 3

  • It is two months later and we're in England now, as Gemma sits on a train arriving in London and watches her brother, Tom, wake-up in the seat across from her.
  • Tom tells Gemma to cheer up since she is going to Spence, a school known for breeding "charming young ladies" (3.3). Based on his comment, we totally get why Gemma is less than thrilled about this development. 
  • Sitting there, Gemma thinks about her grandmother telling her that if she will ever marry, she will need a lot of help.
  • Her grandmother also said that sending Gemma to Spence is what her mother would have wanted, but Gemma knows that her mother wanted her to stay in India and feels guilty about wanting to come to London; she is generally feeling "miserable" (3.5).
  • While Tom had slept during their trip, Gemma sat thinking about what had happened after she found her mother. 
  • We learn that the man her mother was with was named Amar and that Gemma didn't tell anyone anything about her vision, since it seemed too difficult and crazy to explain.
  • Then Gemma thinks about her father and how he abuses laudanum (an opiate drug) to escape.
  • Tom notices that Gemma is thinking hard and tells her to stop "brooding," to which she apologizes, and they go find a porter.
  • Out of the corner of her eye, Gemma spots a flash of a black cloak, but then she sees a man wearing a black coat that is too big and laughs it off as her wild imagination.
  • Driving through London in a coach, Gemma is taken by the sights, and as Tom explains to her what a proper lady is like (living only for her husband's good name and not getting in the way), she finds it insulting.
  • Gemma challenges Tom with the fact that their mother was an equal to their father.
  • Tom looks sad. He questions Gemma about the murder and she wonders if it is safe to tell him what happened, hoping that he will be the brother she remembers from childhood, but then he asks if she is still a virgin and she is upset all over again, since his curiosity shows how shallow he is now.
  • Wisely, Gemma thinks that living in civilized English society is a big lie, a total hoax. 
  • They argue about whether their father is an opium addict (from the hookah and laudanum). Tom denies that it is from the medicinal laudanum he gets for him, and goes on to tell Gemma that a murder would be a scandal and that they must say Mother died of cholera.
  • Even though she despises it, she agrees because she feels dead inside.
  • They pass through a poor neighborhood—Tom closes his curtains to block out the sight, but Gemma wants to see it.
  • Suddenly a couple comes out of a bar and begins to argue with the carriage driver, so they can't move forward. Tom tries to reason with them.
  • Much to Gemma's dismay, she slips into another vision. A little girl in a white pinafore playing with a doll tells her that Mary is looking for her and that "it" is looking for her too; Gemma doesn't understand this. 
  • Then she sees the terrible monster shape emerge from the shadows, whispering to her to "come to us." Um… yikes.
  • Of course Gemma's instinct tells her to get out of dodge, and the shadow creature grins and howls and screeches with sharp teeth.
  • Gemma yells "No!" and stops her vision.
  • Totally freaking out, she shouts at the couple to get out of the way and Tom is shocked at how unladylike Gemma is.
  • She apologizes for herself and Tom scolds her again.