Study Guide

The Wings of the Dove Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 1

By Henry James

Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 1

  • We open on Kate Croy standing in a room in her father's apartment. She's waiting for her father to show up and doesn't seem all that happy about seeing him. Worse yet, the dude totally keeps her waiting for longer than he needs to. The place is a bit of a mess, and we quickly learn that this is a pretty accurate reflection of the man's personality.
  • While Kate waits, we learn that she used to have two brothers who have both died. We also learn that she is a very "handsome" (read: smokin' hot) woman.
  • Eventually, her father shows up and Kate realizes instantly that he's never going to tell her the truth about anything in her life. He has written to her that he's been "ill"—too ill, in fact, to even leave his home, which is why he has forced her to come to him. Kate feels that even if the man were to die, there wouldn't be enough evidence in the world to convince her that his death wasn't some sort of trick.
  • Kate can already see that her father has lied to her, since he has clearly just come back to the house from some errand, which proves that he is in fact well enough to leave his house. When she calls him on this, though, her father says that he's been out to the pharmacist only because it was a matter of life and death. Yeah right, buddy.
  • We also learn that Kate's sister Marian is a widow with four little children. The father doesn't really care about her.
  • Kate opens the conversation by telling her father she's loyal to him and that she'll go anywhere with him. We don't really know the context for this yet, so it's kind of hard to know what she means.
  • Her father, on the other hand, says that he'll never consent to her staying with him.
  • Kate goes on to talk about how little money the family has left after the death of their mother, who left her small amount of cash to Kate and Marian. She left almost nothing to her husband, because he was a terrible, terrible dude her whole life.
  • Kate reveals to her dad that she gives half of her own inheritance to help her sister raise her four children. Her father, though, thinks this is a weak-minded thing to do.
  • Kate's father asks what the whole business is of her trying to move in with him. She tells him that her wealthy aunt Maud has made her a proposal. If she (Kate) totally gives up ever seeing or speaking to her father again, Maud will completely take care of her every financial need.
  • Her father recommends that he and Kate never see each other again. He feels like Maud is offering a pretty good deal, and can't imagine how someone would ever choose family bonds over financial self-interest.
  • In fact, he's interested in knowing how much money Kate is willing to funnel to him secretly if she agrees to Maud's deal.
  • In case you didn't know, this guy's a terrible person.
  • In fact, he tells Kate that she should thank him for giving her such a good opportunity with Maud. If he hadn't been so detestable over the years, Maud wouldn't be offering lots of money to get Kate away from him. Yeah, buddy. We'll be sure to give you a trophy for that one.
  • Mr. Croy says it's Kate's duty to take up Maud on her offer and to give a bunch of the money to him. Kate, though, says that if she were ever to agree to her aunt's deal, she'd be honest about it. She genuinely would never contact her father again.
  • Mr. Croy thinks it's best if Kate explores the idea of Aunt Maud finding her a rich husband. Once she's settled into her new life and relying on her husband instead of Aunt Maud, then she can resume relations with her dad and give him some money to live on. It actually turns out that the dad is kind of afraid of Aunt Maud.
  • The dad then says that he will totally accept Aunt Maud's judgment on the man Kate should marry. He might not like the old woman, but he knows she's a snob and that any man she picks for Kate will be rich and respected.
  • Kate then repeats that she is done with Aunt Maud and that she will come live with her father. She's testing him, and he keeps failing. He responds to this by saying that Kate is an idiot and that it will be better for both of them if they end up with Aunt Maud's money and never see each other again. He can't believe how emotionally weak Kate is being.
  • All Kate wants is to be with her dad. But he rejects her so that both of them can have money. Pay close attention to what's happening here: it'll influence on Kate's motives later in the novel.
  • Kate threatens her father by saying that if he rejects her, she'll go off and marry whichever man she wants, even if he's penniless.
  • At this point, we get the sense that Kate actually has someone specific in mind. Her father, though, says he forbids her to marry any man whom Aunt Maud doesn't approve of. And even though he's sick and old, he menaces Kate by saying that he still has the ability to make her regret defying him.
  • And that's what you call a menace.