"Undine had been perfectly sincere in telling Indiana Rolliver that she was not an 'immoral woman.' The pleasures for which her sex took such risks had never attracted her, and she did not even crave the excitement of having it thought that they did. She wanted, passionately and persistently, two things which she believed should subsist together in any well-ordered life: amusement and respectability; and despite her surface-sophistication her notion of amusement was hardly less innocent than when she had hung on the plumber's fence with Indiana Frusk."
I think it is a misreading to think that she is all about money. If she were, she wouldn't keep going for "respectability," first marrying into an Old New York family and then into the French aristocracy. Unfortunately, neither provided much amusement. Her last marriage (in the novel) appears to be more for amusement, and the novel ends with her longing for a higher level of respectability--being the wife of an ambassador.
I would like her better if she pursued love and passion, perhaps because I can personally relate to such motivations.
: The self-made "man" quote seems
: ironic, since they were both born into
: wealthy New York City families. They may
: have made a great deal of the advantages
: they inherited, but
: Undine sympathetic to moderns? Well, maybe.
: Bloom recounts a story in which he asked a
: class whom they'd rather be or be in love
: with: Lily from The House of Mirth, Ellen
: from The Age of Innocence, or Undine. He
: expected them to choose Ellen (his own
: choice), but they chose Undine. I have not
: read the other books (although I saw the
: film of TAoI), so I can't really comment,
: except to say that I would remain celibate
: the rest of my life rather than fall in love
: with Undine. She's utterly toxic and
: startlingly self-centered.
: My experience, which admittedly is
: influenced by my practice because it brings
: me into intimate conversations with people
: with whom I would not choose to socialize,
: is that no one wants to admit that only
: money matters to them. Everyone thinks that
: God, the nation, moral standards, their
: family, their personal honor, whatever,
: matters more than money, even though their
: actions do not always support their beliefs.
: I was as shocked as Bloom by his class,
: because I can't imagine anyone not being
: horrified by Undine. I can understand some
: sympathy for Elmer, who doesn't really seem
: to be that bad a fellow. (Unless, of
: course, Moffatt intentionally drives Ralph
: to suicide by his disclosure, but I don't
: see how he could have anticipated that. I
: Her carelessness and heartlessness toward
: her child, the fact that she intentionally
: goes off on a spree with a lover and starts
: the divorce process immediately after
: learning that her husband is desperately
: ill, her steady ruining of her parents
: without a flicker of remorse--she is an
: absolute and utter villainess without
: redeeming features. Jonathan Franzen has
: "Undine is an extreme case of the
: unlikable person rendered perplexingly
: sympathetic by her desires. She’s almost
: comically indestructible, like Wile E.
: Coyote. The interest I take in her ascent,
: her Coyote-like survival of the seeming
: wipeout blows that her divorces deliver to
: her social standing, may be akin to the
: fascination of watching one spider in a jar
: prevail over other spiders, but I still
: can’t read the book without aligning myself
: with her struggle."
: H-m-m. Well, I can. I would have loved to
: see the book end with her complete ruin. I
: absolutely loathed her.
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