Day Twenty-One: Swann's Way, pp. 287-300

From "One day when Swann ..." to "... Swann was never mentioned again."

Can this relationship be saved?

Swann arrives at Odette's in the middle of the day, rings the bell, thinks he hears footsteps inside, but no one comes to the door. When he comes back an hour later, Odette tells him she was asleep and by the time she got to the door he was gone. He knows she's lying, but he doesn't accuse her of doing so, "because he thought that, left to herself, Odette would perhaps produce some lie that would be a faint indication of the truth." Her expression as she lies reminds him once again of Botticelli's women, of "their downcast and heartbroken expression which seems to be succumbing beneath the weight of a grief too heavy for them."

When he leaves, she gives him some letters to post for her, one of which is for Forcheville. He mails the others, but takes the one for Forcheville with him and reads it by holding it up to a candle, ingeniously rationalizing "that by not looking, I'm behaving with a lack of delicacy toward Odette, because this is the only way to free myself of a suspicion which is perhaps calumnious for her, which is in any case bound to hurt her, and which nothing would be able to destroy, once the letter was gone." The letter betrays nothing conclusive.

His jealousy, like an octopus that casts a first, then a second, then a third mooring, attached itself solidly first to that time, five o'clock in the afternoon, then to another, then to yet another.

It changes him radically:

And so he who ... had sought out new people, large groups, now appeared unsociable, appeared to be fleeing the company of men as if it had cruelly wounded him. And how could he not be misanthropic, when he saw every man as a possible lover of Odette's.

And he finds himself shut out from the one social group he had relied on, the Verdurins and their "little set." When he discovers that he has not been invited on one of their outings, he is mortified, so visibly that "his coachman looked at him and asked if he was not ill or if there had not been an accident." He sends the coachman away and walks home, railing against the "sublimely bourgeois" Verdurins, and even against Odette: "He could see Odette in clothes far to formal for this country outing, 'because she's so vulgar and worst of all, poor little thing, such a fool!!!'" He professes to be through with the Verdurins for good: "Thank God -- it was high time I stopped condescending to mix in utter promiscuousness with such infamy, such excrement."

The irony, of course, is that the Verdurins are equally glad to rid themselves of Swann, whom Mme. Verdurin calls "deadly dull, stupid, and ill-mannered."

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