Study Guide

The Wings of the Dove Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 1

By Henry James

Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 1

  • Meet Susan Stringham and Milly Theale, a pair of American women who are travelling through Europe together. Susan is significantly older than Milly—old enough to be her mother. But Milly is an orphan with no family and Susan is sort of her friend and mother at the same time.
  • Susan likes being around Milly because Milly is a beautiful and rich young woman, and being around her fills the older Susan with pride and energy.
  • Wherever she goes, Milly tends to be the most beautiful and lovely girl in the room. Susan is always worried about doing something that'll make Milly stop liking her, though. As a childless widow, Susan is alone in the world and really appreciates the company and youth of Milly.
  • It wasn't Susan, however, who recommended the trip to Europe. The idea actually came from Milly, who asked Susan to drop everything and sail to Europe as soon as possible.
  • While walking on a road in Switzerland, Milly goes ahead of Susan to sit and read a book. Eventually, Susan catches up to her and panics at the sight of Milly sitting very near the edge of a cliff. But it's only an optical illusion, and Milly isn't as close to the cliff as it first seemed.
  • Earlier on the path toward Milly, Susan stopped to pick up a book Milly had left behind. Scribbled on it is the French message, "à bientôt!" which means "goodbye." Susan is suddenly filled with the idea that Milly is thinking about dying.
  • Susan returns to the inn they're staying at without bothering Milly. She does wonder, though, why death is so clearly on Milly's mind.

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