Summary: Book 3: Chapter 1

Ten years pass, and Charles becomes an architectural painter. He specializes in older buildings because they represent a beauty free from passing trends. He prospers even within the financial tumult because people commission him to paint old buildings before they’re torn down. Seeking a new subject, Charles travels to Latin America to paint abandoned buildings overgrown by nature.

Charles meets up with his wife, Celia, in New York so they can journey back to England together by ship. Celia is Boy Mulcaster’s sister. Celia and Charles have a son, and while Charles was traveling, Celia gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Catherine. However, their marriage appears cool, and Charles expresses no interest in his children. Nevertheless, Celia declares they can pick up right where they left off before Charles’s trip.

On the ship, Celia insists they throw a cocktail party. As Celia calls passengers to make invitations, Charles overhears her inviting Julia. Charles hasn’t heard from Julia in years. According to rumors, Julia and Rex are unhappy, and Rex’s career has not been as prosperous as expected. Charles runs into Julia at the ship’s bar. She tells Charles he looks harder than he once did. Charles notices a new softness in her but also a sadness. 

Charles is miserable at Celia’s party. Celia introduces him to people who work in Hollywood to expand his clientele. All Charles wants is to see Julia, but she doesn’t come. At dinner, Charles can’t speak with Julia because they’re seated at different tables. However, a storm arises, causing people to retreat to their cabins with seasickness. 

The next morning, Charles finds his sea legs. He selects a bouquet of roses from the cocktail party and asks a steward to send it to Julia’s cabin. Celia is still feeling seasick, so Charles meets Julia alone. Julia’s shocked by the roses but relieved Charles has regifted them. As Charles and Julia walk around the ship together, he’s pleased she can weather the storm.

They spend the whole next day together. Charles accompanies Julia when she goes to dress for dinner, and they kiss. He tries to come with her to bed that evening. Julia stops him, saying she doesn’t want love. Charles claims he’s not asking for love, but Julia disagrees. 

They catch up on each other’s lives. Julia had a difficult time getting pregnant. By the time she succeeded, she and Rex had fallen out of love. The baby was stillborn. She doesn’t think Rex is unkind, but he’s not a real person. Julia had hoped to bring her child up Catholic, believing Catholicism could help her child when it couldn’t help her. She feels like her marriage is divine punishment. Charles confesses that he doesn’t like Celia. When Celia cheated on him, he was relieved to have an excuse not to like her. He married her because she’s pretty and well-connected and because he missed Sebastian. 

When Charles and Julia walk around the ship the next day, a sudden lurch pushes them into each other’s arms. Julia brings Charles back to her cabin, and they have sex. However, the storm clears up, and they know their privacy from the other passengers has come to an end. When it’s time to disembark, Charles tells Celia he plans to stay in London. Celia protests that the children want to see him, but he’s unmoved. He knows Julia will be in London.

Analysis: Book 3: Chapter 1

Celia and Charles have a miserable marriage because it is based on the appearance of happiness rather than actual substance. Celia names their daughter without consulting him, which demonstrates that she considers herself in charge of their family life instead of them being a team. Charles, on the other hand, doesn’t make any attempt to foster a relationship with his children, which shows he considers them more Celia’s than his. Celia’s ingratiating behavior at the cocktail party in her bid to further Charles’s career recalls Rex Mulcaster’s political savvy. She tries to introduce Charles to the right people—Hollywood executives—in order to assure his financial prosperity, and she also shows off as though they are a lively society couple. The way Celia arranges Charles’s career, their homelife, and their societal position focuses entirely on keeping up appearances. Her insistence that Charles’s time away in Latin America has made no difference to their relationship and her refusal to discuss her past infidelities demonstrates an unwillingness to examine the depth of their relationship or put emotional work into it. For Celia, the image of a perfect marriage matters more than its lived reality.

While Charles appears caught up in the excitement of seeing Julia again, Julia has a more complicated mindset, caught between passion and self-recrimination. Charles regrets his marriage to Celia, but he doesn’t blame himself for marrying her. In contrast, Julia worries that her loveless marriage is divine punishment because she married outside the Catholic church—placing the blame entirely on herself. Therefore, despite her attraction to Charles, she’s reluctant to carry on an affair with him, which would mean committing adultery. Julia panics about the roses Charles sends her before realizing he didn’t procure them specifically for her, which would have implied a more intensely romantic gesture instead of a friendly one. Her statement that she can’t give Charles “love” the first time he tries to have sex with her merits observation. As Charles has noted, they have a deep affinity for each other as people who appreciate what lasts. Julia knows they cannot have a casual affair. However, her guilt is such that she believes that Catholicism can no longer save her. Therefore, her eventual acquiesce to Charles implies that she believes happy passion cannot possibly harm her soul more than she already has. 

The theme of endurance runs through this chapter with the implication that old, sturdy values last longer than modern ones. Charles chooses to paint old buildings because he admires their resilience and believes time has proven their worthiness as subject matter. As such, he bemoans the destruction of these buildings as a sign that modern society doesn’t value what they represent. He also sees an endurance in Julia. When the storm hits, Celia takes immediately to bed, which Charles coldly treats as dramatic and foolish. He views Julia’s ability to walk with him despite the choppy waters as a sign that she can weather metaphorical storms as well, instead of wilting at the first sign of adversity. The discussion of their failed marriages plays into this theme too. Both Charles as Julia married for shallow and expedient reasons, without regard for their partner’s ability to commit or make them happy in the long term. Julia’s description of Rex as not a complete person means that he lacks the substance to handle their marital strife. Celia expects Charles to ignore her infidelity and their time apart, continuing where they left off instead of putting serious work into their issues. Thus, both Rex and Celia showcase what Charles views as transient, modern values.