Summary: Part Three: Chapter One

New York, December 1927

The Christmastime weather is unusually mild. Irene worries about Brian. He is not just restless but moody and withdrawn. He loses his temper with the boys. For the first time in her marriage, Irene is unsure what is going on in his mind. She drifts off to sleep. Several hours later, she is awakened by Brian, reminding her that it is almost time for the party they are hosting in honor of Hugh Wentworth. Also, Clare is downstairs. Irene had purposely not invited her, because, she says, Hugh finds her annoying. He prefers intelligent women. Brian expresses surprise that Irene would call Clare unintelligent. He then admits he invited Clare, on the assumption that Irene simply forgot to. With a flash, Irene concludes that Brian and Clare have been having an affair. After composing herself, she is able to go downstairs and carry out her duties as hostess, but she is preoccupied with feelings of betrayal, and with questions about what the affair means for her and the boys. When Irene sees that Hugh has noticed a friendly conversation between Brian and Clare, the teacup Irene is holding slips from her hand and breaks. She then pretends to Hugh that she dropped the cup deliberately. She continues hosting until the evening is over.

Analysis: Part Three: Chapter One

Throughout the novel, descriptions of the weather are used to set the tone for the scenes that follow and to reflect the characters’ emotions. In this section, the weather is springlike and unseasonably warm for Christmas. Irene finds the weather disturbing because it is out of place, and it reflects her own dislocation. With her strong sense of appropriate roles, Irene naturally believes the weather ought to reflect the season. The weather also symbolically represents Irene’s own inability to feel in the Christmas spirit because she is preoccupied with worry that Brian and Clare are having an affair. She longs for true spring and the removal of Clare from her life. Brian, too, is unhappy and restless. Whether it is with Clare or in Brazil , the false spring weather in winter symbolizes the false hope he feels for a new life. Larsen’s use of spring weather here is an example of irony as the characters ache for renewal.