Study Guide

The Wings of the Dove Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 2

By Henry James

Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 2

  • At the start of this chapter, we learn that Kate originally went to her Aunt Maud's place after her mother died. She feels like a lot of time has passed since then. Aunt Maud lives in a big fancy house called Lancaster Gate.
  • At only twenty-five years old, Kate unfortunately feels as if she's wasted her youth.
  • Kate has also realized that ever since moving in with her aunt, she has come to care much more about the superficial aspects of life. She likes having lots of material things and finds it hard to think about ever giving them up, even though she was willing to do this for her no-good father.
  • Aunt Maud is a woman who likes to control people's lives. She is extremely secure in her opinions to the point of narrow-mindedness, and enjoys sticking her nose in people's business and using her wealth to be a sort of social puppet master.
  • One of the reasons Aunt Maud is so willing to help Kate and not her sister Marian is because Maud strongly objected to Marian's marriage. This is important info, as it shows us that Kate can definitely ruin her financial future if she disobeys her aunt in any significant way.
  • In a meeting with Marian, Kate mentions that she's been to see their father and has promised to stand by him if he'll let her. Marian thinks this is a ridiculous thing to do, probably because she also wants to count on the money Kate could get out of agreeing to Aunt Maud's terms. In other words, Kate's entire family wants to control her actions without really acknowledging what Kate herself might want.
  • When Marian talks about Kate throwing her future away, though, she's not just talking about Kate's relationship with their father. Marian mentions that she's also aware of the relationship that Kate has struck up with a young man named Merton Densher.
  • Kate says she doesn't know what Marian is talking about, although it's pretty clear that this is the man she was hinting at when she told her father she might marry someone Aunt Maud didn't approve of.
  • Marian is very suspicious of the fact that Kate constantly hangs out with Merton, but never ever talks about him. It suggests that Kate is hiding something.
  • Marian goes as far as to say that Merton Densher is the worst thing that has ever happened to their family, which is saying a lot because they have an awful, awful father. She says this because Merton Densher doesn't have any money and Marian is convinced that he'll never make a financial success of himself. And yes, she is absolutely dead-set on Kate winding up rich.
  • Kate accuses Marian of wanting the money herself, and Marian doesn't deny it. Kate then accuses Marian of being exactly like their father.
  • We learn soon afterward that Aunt Maud already has a young man in mind for Kate to marry. The dude's name is Lord Mark, and judging by his title, he's some sort of British aristocrat. This whole Lord Mark arrangement is all news to Kate, though.
  • Looking at her sister, Kate hopes that she'll never end up like her—heartless and cynical. Yuck.