Study Guide

A Great and Terrible Beauty Chapter 4

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Chapter 4

  • They arrive at the enormous school that looks like a castle, and come upon a woman in the road. She is a gypsy and seems to recognize Gemma, saying, "You've come back to me" (4.7). Say what?
  • Chillingly, the woman then asks about Carolina and says, "Mother Elena sees everything" (4.12).
  • Pulling up to the school, Tom reminds Gemma that she should stick to hanging with the rich in-crowd, a.k.a. "her equals," which Gemma thinks is hilarious since she thinks of herself as a loser, though she doesn't say as much.
  • Expecting to be welcomed in by a warm face, Gemma is shocked to be met instead by a disappointed housekeeper who immediately scolds her for being late.
  • Waiting in the lobby, some girls come over and flirt with Tom, who shows off for them. Needless to say, Gemma isn't thrilled.
  • When it is time for Tom to leave, he doesn't have anything nice to say, just, "Make us proud" (4.28). Uh, yeah—we'll miss you too, Tom.
  • Gemma is taken to meet the headmistress, Mrs. Nightwing, who ignores her until she is done with her paperwork.
  • Finally Mrs. Nightwing talks to Gemma, though she does so in a cold, short way. She tells her she doesn't need to wear black (to mourn her mother), and she also breaks down the schedule of events.
  • Down the hall is her new room, which is tiny and bare, and which she will share with a scholarship student, a.k.a. a lower class girl. 
  • Gemma tries on her uniform and finds it is too short because she is tall for her age. 
  • They walk to prayers in the chapel and pass by a locked door—it leads to the East Wing, burned by a fire and now sealed off.
  • Gemma thinks she sees a shadow move behind the door.

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