Excellent Women - Chapters 7-12 Summary & Analysis

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Chapters 7-12 Summary

Mildred goes to the Malory house to help Winifred with the church jumble sale. Winifred is excited to tell Mildred that they found a tenant, a widow by the name of Mrs. Allegra Gray. Mrs. Gray is the widow of a clergyman, the one reason it is appropriate for an unmarried woman to be living in the Malory house along with the unmarried vicar.

Mildred notices immediately that Julian is paying a lot of attention to Mrs. Gray. Remarkably, Mildred discovers that she is jealous, yet when other people comment she is quick to defend Julian by saying he is just being kind to the new parishioner.

Spring arrives and Mildred has her annual lunch date with William Caldicote, Dora's brother. At one time Dora had hoped that Mildred and William would develop a romance. Over the years the relationship turned into more of a friendship. There are many things about William that Mildred likes but there are times when she finds him fussy and pretentious.

Over lunch, William and Mildred talk about Mildred's work with the aged gentlewomen, the arrival of the Napiers, Mrs. Gray, and news from Dora. William immediately assumes that Mildred is upset about the amount of attention and Julian is paying to Mrs. Gray. Williams says that Mildred is an excellent woman, one who should not marry. Excellent women should stay unmarried and enjoy life. After lunch, William takes Mildred to his office at the Ministry for a tour.

On the street Mildred runs into Rocky Napier and they go to afternoon tea. As usual, Mildred finds Rocky charming and cannot understand his relationship with the unconventional Helena.

On Wednesdays when Mildred is at work, she and a coworker often go to St. Ermin's church for services. During the mass Mildred sees Everard Bone. This time, Mildred and Everard speak to one another. The exchange is relatively pleasant.

Mildred has a desire to visit Winifred to catch up on news. Ever since Mrs. Gray moved in, the friends have not seen much of each other. When Mildred arrives, Winifred is in Mrs. Gray's room helping her move in and arrange her things. Mildred agrees to help with the curtains. Julian arrives in time for tea and Mildred sees his affection for Mrs. Gray. Once again, Mildred feels a combination of jealousy and protection and makes an escape.

Helena, Everard, Rocky and Mildred go to the Learned Society to hear the speech on the trip to Africa. Rocky and Mildred sit together in the gallery and watch as interesting people mill around the room while Helena and Everard make their presentation. Mildred is completely lost by the topic and spends her time observing the crowd, including the president's sleeping wife. After the presentation, the group goes out to dinner. Everard and Helena make no effort to make Mildred feel at home and throughout the meal Mildred feels inferior. When Everard mentions that he is going away for awhile, Helena is visibly upset. Yet later, Helena and Rocky discuss the suitability of Everard as Mildred's husband.

Dora comes to visit over the Easter holiday. When the pair goes shopping Dora makes comments about how Mildred's looks have changed. There is a conversation about giving up on marriage over the age of 30. Dora and Mildred ride atop a double-decker bus to Piccadilly. They see Julian and Allegra Gray, holding hands in public. Dora finds this demonstration somewhat odd and Mildred becomes extremely upset. For the rest of the day Dora and Mildred seem to be at odds.

Rocky comes by Mildred's apartment and invites Dora and Mildred to go for drinks. Dora has a grand time flirting with Rocky while Mildred feels somewhat uncomfortable, particularly since she is not used to drinking alcohol. Both Dora and Rocky tease Mildred about Julian and Everard. Mildred tries to convince them that she is not interested in either, but the protestations go unheard.

Dora and Mildred go to their school reunion where they meet up with old friends and acquaintances. On the way home, Dora and Mildred meet a Wren officer who was stationed in Italy at the same time as Rocky. The woman tells Dora and Mildred about Rocky's numerous affairs, and refers to him as a shallow person. Mildred is shocked by the confession and wonders if Helena knows.

Chapters 7-12 Analysis

Mildred has spent a great deal of her life in service, and never gave much thought to her own romantic relationships. If Mildred had any strong feelings for Julian, it was not apparent to her until Mrs. Gray arrived. Mildred finds herself becoming more and more jealous and protective yet will not admit even to herself that she has strong feelings for the vicar. Mildred is also jealous that Mrs. Gray is the center of attention and has commandeered Winifred's time and affection.

The luncheon with William Caldicote only reinforces Mildred's realization that the two will never be more than friends. William takes great pride in being pretentious and superior. Mildred is surprised when William tells her that she should not marry, and that marriage should be left to those who are less capable and sensible. Williams sees Mildred as an excellent woman, one who is responsible and able to take care of herself, therefore she is not in need of a husband. While Mildred is somewhat flattered by the comment she is also disappointed as William apparently does not see her as the marrying kind.

Mildred continues to see herself as one of the rejected ones, particularly when it comes to Julian. There are also a great number of instances where Mildred feels inferior, particularly in the presence of Helena and Everard. The experience at the Learned Society, thoroughly intimidates Mildred, and she wishes she was more intelligent and devoted to a fascinating career.

Mildred is glad to see Dora yet the visit reaffirms Mildred's love of living alone. Although Dora is a close friend, she has many habits which irritate Mildred. Among which are Dora's untidiness and negativity regarding Mildred's looks and marriage.

The trip to the school reunion is a pleasant one for Mildred. On the way home, she surprised to meet the Wren officer that was stationed with Rocky. Mildred realizes that she is not the only woman other than Helena that finds Rocky attractive and charming. Mildred wonders if it is common for officers stationed in other countries to have extramarital affairs and if Helena knows about Rocky's indiscretions. The Wren officer says that many soldiers have these kinds of affairs, while others seem completely devoted to their wives and families. Mildred is disheartened to realize that Rocky is a shallow human being.

This section contains 1,118 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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