The Golden Bowl - Volume One, Book First, Chapters 4-6 Summary & Analysis

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Volume One, Book First, Chapters 4-6 Summary

In Chapter four when Fanny is alone with her husband, she voices her concerns about Charlotte arriving in town just in time for the Prince's wedding. She is concerned that some might believe she is responsible for Charlotte's coming. Fanny is also concerned that Charlotte has come to see the Prince again and perhaps restart their old affair. Fanny uses her husband as a sounding board off which to bounce her ideas concerning why Charlotte might have come back when she did and what Fanny should do about the situation. Her husband, Bob, asks the depth of the relationship between the Prince and Charlotte. Fanny tells him they were in love with each other, but neither had enough money for them to marry.

Fanny goes on to tell her husband that the Prince had never heard of Maggie before Fanny introduced the two. Charlotte and the Prince had already gone their separate ways by this time. Fanny stresses to her husband that it was she who introduced the Prince and Maggie. Fanny believes Maggie does not know about the relationship between the Prince and Charlotte. She tells her husband that Maggie will be terribly hurt if she ever does find out about the relationship. Fanny ends her discussion with the belief that Charlotte is attempting to act in Maggie's best interests. She believes Charlotte has timed her return visit perfectly and intends only to help Maggie through her wedding and marriage. In return Fanny tells her husband that they must befriend Charlotte in the same way and help her to find someone to marry.

In Chapter five Charlotte and the Prince go on their shopping trip together. As they first meet Charlotte admits to the Prince that it is for this one hour alone together that she came back to London. The Prince is uncomfortable with his lack of knowledge about Charlotte's intentions, and his own feelings. Before they begin shopping, they sit together in the park and Charlotte tells the Prince that she came back to London for this one hour they might spend together as they had in the past. She tells the Prince that it is his willingness to come with her on her shopping trip that proves he is all she wanted. She concludes that even if he does not understand her reasoning, she wanted him to know this. After this discussion, the two begin their shopping. They purposefully skip all the shops Maggie may have been to as well as those that Maggie and the Prince visited together. As they shop, they discuss Maggie's positive qualities.

In Chapter six Charlotte and the Prince find themselves in an interesting shop on Bloomsbury Street. As the shopkeeper shows them various items, they both agree there is nothing there that Maggie would appreciate. As they continue to look, the Prince asks Charlotte if there is anything there that she would like. He tells her this would be a token of their time together on that day. They speak to one another in Italian, a language they believe the shopkeeper, who is still showing them items, cannot understand. Charlotte points out to the Prince that even if she did accept a token from him, she would never be able to wear or display it. Unfortunately, however, the shopkeeper soon lets on to the couple that he speaks Italian and has understood their entire conversation.

Soon after this discovery, the shopkeeper brings out a final item, a golden bowl made of crystal. Charlotte considers the bowl, but asks why the shopkeeper offers it to her so cheaply if it is so valuable. Before the shopkeeper can answer, the Prince leaves the shop to wait outside. Although Charlotte suspects there is something wrong with the bowl, she continues to look at and consider it as a gift. She finally declines to buy the bowl, claiming it is too expensive. The shopkeeper promises to keep it for her.

Once she is outside the Prince asks her if she had finally realized what was wrong with the bowl. He claims to have seen it from the beginning. The Prince believes the crack to be a bad symbol, especially in something one hopes to give as a wedding gift. It is at this point the Prince tells Charlotte he hopes he will be able to freely give her a gift on one day. This will be the day that she marries, he says. Upon these words, they depart from one another.

Volume One, Book First, Chapters 4-6 Analysis

Note that although Fanny's husband listens intently to her discussion of the situation with the Prince, Maggie and Charlotte, he does not really understand what all of the fuss is about. Even though he does not completely understand his wife's concern about the situation, his role in the novel is solidified in Chapter four. He is the sounding board off of which his wife bounces her ideas. He is also a source of comic relief as he picks at his wife and lightly makes fun of her concern over a situation which he considers to be out of her control.

In these chapters James spends much time contemplating the reasons why Charlotte has come back to town just in time for Maggie's wedding. While Fanny chooses to believe that Charlotte only wants to support her good friend, there is the lurking possibility that she may have come to try to win the Prince back. In her conversation with her husband Fanny also brings up questions concerning the Prince's and Maggie's reasons for wanting to marry one another. It appears there may be more than affection cementing their decision to marry. The Prince, it is suspected, may only want the Ververs' money. Note that Fanny tells her husband this lack of funds is the reason that Charlotte and the Prince did not act on their love for one another. Fanny says that the two could not have been married because the Prince could not live without money.

Note also Fanny's role as adviser to the Prince. While she definitely spends an adequate amount of time considering the young peoples' situation, she closes her eyes to the suggestion that there may be anything immoral in Charlotte's actions. Since she is not actively discouraging a relationship between the two, Charlotte and the Prince find no impediments in re-igniting their old friendship.

The golden bowl is introduced in Chapter six. This bowl is significant to the book not only because Charlotte considers it as a wedding gift for Maggie but also because of what the bowl represents. This is a beautiful crystal bowl decorated with gold. While it appears to be highly desirable, both the Prince and Charlotte suspect there is something wrong with it. This bowl represents the Prince's upcoming marriage to Maggie. Although it seems desirable, it is cracked from the beginning because of the Prince's ongoing relationship with Charlotte. Also note that while they are in the store, the couple speaks to each other in Italian believing that the shopkeeper will not be able to understand them. However, the shopkeeper soon lets them know that he also knows Italian. It is important to note the comment that Charlotte makes that the shopkeeper will be sure to remember them.

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