I confess to being baffled. I can (just barely) understand why Undine is so relentlessly social climbing, always wanting more and despising it once she has it, but I’m completely puzzled by what the men see in here. There is only one man who has enough insight to realize that if she treats her husband so cruelly that she is likely to treat him that way too, and he drops her.
I think part of her attraction must be the high value she puts on herself. She’s pretty enough, all right, but it is her own self-worth that bedazzles the eyes of the men who surround her. She holds herself so high that they think by possessing her they are enhancing their own value.
Wharton sums up her greediness and ignorance in one sentence: ‘She had everything she wanted, but she still felt, at times, that there were other things she might want if she knew about them.’
I’ve known women like Undine and have always wondered about the attraction they hold for men. Other women don’t seem to like them, but men can’t get enough of them. A mystery.