_____The narrator's heightened consciousness of the effect of time also causes him to turn his attention to the younger people at the party: "now it was not only what had become of the young people of the past, but what would become of the young people of today, that was giving me such a strong sensation of time." A few guests, however, seem to have withstood the ravaging effects of time and "at the age of fifty they began a new kind of beauty." But women "who were too beautiful or too ugly" couldn't benefit from this kind of transformation: The former "crumble away like a statue," and the latter "did not really look as if they had aged," but haven't improved either. In a few, the process has either "accelerated or slowed down." One former beauty has been ravaged by her addiction to "cocaine and other drugs." But one man, who "must have been over fifty, and looked younger than he had when he was thirty ... had found an intelligent doctor and cut out alcohol and salt."
And then there's Odette: "'You think I'm my mother,' Gilberte had said to me. It was true." Expecting to see a great change in Odette, he doesn't recognize her at first. Having calculated how old she must be, "it seemed to me [she] could not possibly be the one I was looking at, precisely because she was so like her old self." And because Odette "had not changed, she hardly seemed to be alive. She was like a sterilized rose.... The voice had stayed the same, needlessly warm, captivating.... And yet, just as her eyes seemed to be looking at me from a distant shore, her voice was sad, almost pleading, like that of the dead in the Odyssey. Odette was still capable of acting." Three years later, he will see her again at Gilberte's and find that her mind is going, though when a guest says, "She's a bit gaga, you know," Odette will visibly take offense. "[S]he who had betrayed Swann and everybody else was not being betrayed by the entire universe; and she had become so weak that she no longer even dared, now the roles were reversed, to defend herself against men. And soon she would not defend herself against death."
And thus the Princesse de Guermantes's drawing-room was illuminated, forgetful, and flowery, like a peaceful cemetery. There, time had not only brought about the ruin of the creatures of a former epoch, it had made possible, had indeed created, new associations.Bloch has "permanently adopted his pseudonym of Jacques du Rozier as his own name" and has become a famous and successful writer. He has shaved his moustache and wears a monocle, and "his Jewish nose had disappeared, in the way that a hunchback, if she presents herself well, can seem to stand almost straight." He comments to the narrator that the Princesse de Guermantes is hardly the "marvellous beauty" that he had once raved about, and the narrator has to explain that this isn't the same person: "The Princesse de Guermantes had died and it was the former Mme Verdurin whom the Prince, ruined by the defeat of Germany, had married." Bloch protests that he must be wrong, because he had looked up the Prince in the Almanac de Gotha, and found that he was "married to somebody terribly grand, ... Sidonie, Duchesse de Duras, née des Baux." But the narrator explains that this is still the former Mme. Verdurin, who, "shortly after the death of her husband, had married the penniless old Duc de Duras, who had made her a cousin of the Prince de Guermantes, and had died after two years of marriage." So Mme. Verdurin, who scorned the aristocracy, is now in the thick of it.
So "the outward changes in the faces that I had known were no more than the symbols of an interior change which had been going on from day to day." Case in point: Charles Morel, whose arrival is greeted with "a stir of deferential curiosity" because he's now "a man of some distinction" and commended for "his high moral standards." "I was perhaps the only person there who knew that he had been kept simultaneously both by Saint-Loup and by a friend of Saint-Loup's."
Society itself has loosened up: "The Faubourg Saint-Germain, like a senile dowager, made no response beyond a timid smile to the insolent servants who invaded her drawing-rooms, drank her orangeade and introduced her to their mistresses." The younger members of society assume "that Mme Swann and the Princesse de Guermantes and Bloch had always been in the most elevated social position."
Someone having asked a young man from one of the best families if there was not some story about Gilberte's mother, the young nobleman replied that it was true that in the first part of her life she had been married to an adventurer named Swann, but that she had subsequently married one of the most prominent men in society, the Comte de Forcheville.Bloch, who had once "cut such a sorry figure" in his former attempts to get into society, "had not left off publishing those books of his, the absurd sophistry of which I was today doing my best to demolish so as not to be bogged down by it, works without originality but which provided young people, and a large number of fashionable women, with the impression of an unusually rarefied intellect, a sort of genius." But his final arrival in society has been eased by "the few names he had retained from his acquaintance with Saint-Loup enabled him to give his current prestige the illusion of infinite regress." Bloch introduces the narrator to a young woman who is also a friend of the Duchesse de Guermantes, "and who was one of the smartest women of the day." But even she is completely confused by the lineages of the various friends of the narrator, having been led to believe that the Forchevilles are socially superior to the Guermantes.