A Lost Lady

A Lost Lady Summary and Analysis of Part I, Chapters 7-9

Part I, Chapter 7

On evenings during the winter when Niel is not playing cards with the Forresters, he sits in his room and reads novels. We are told that Niel avoids the philosophy novels, preferring to read about how men feel and live. Reading the classics makes Niel want to become an architect.

One day in the spring Mr. Forrester receives a telegram informing him that a savings banks has gone bankrupt, a bank in which he was heavily invested. Judge Pommeroy and Captain Forrester leave to visit the bank and see whether they can recover the money. Niel remains in the town and eats at the local hotel. On the third day he sees that Frank Ellinger is in town, and thinks that it is inappropriate for him to visit Mrs. Forrester at a time like this.

Niel awakes the next morning and decides to visit Mrs. Forrester before Frank has time to get from the hotel to her house. He walks through the meadows on the way to the house and cuts some wild roses to give to Mrs. Forrester. When he arrives at the house, he hears two voices on the inside and knows that one of them belongs to Frank. Outraged, he runs down the hill and dumps the roses into the mud. He is not morally offended, but rather mad that his mental image of Mrs. Forrester has been ruined.


We again have the imagery of savage cutting juxtaposed on a sensual scene. However, this time the cutting leads to roses in the mud, a sign of destroyed love. "It was not a moral scruple she had outraged, but an aesthetic ideal" (72). Niel's perception of Mrs. Forrester has been shaken at the foundations, and his roses are thrown away, representing his first rejection of her.

Part I, Chapter 8

Captain Forrester returns home a ruined man, having been forced to pay out his own money in order to guarantee the depositors in the bank their money. The other directors of the bank had only wanted to pay fifty cents on the dollar. Judge Pommeroy turns to Niel after relating the story and tells him to become an architect, saying that the law profession had lost his respect after watching the Captain so honorably meet the debts while the other five bank directors merely watched.

When Mrs. Forrester goes to wake up her husband for lunch, he has suffered a stroke. He survives, and soon Cyrus Dalzell, the president of the Colorado and Utah Railroad, shows up to see how he is doing. Cyrus tells Mrs. Forrester that he and his wife are going to make sure that the Forresters come and visit them the next winter, saying that his wife has already arranged it.


In many novels of this period, especially those dealing with Realism or Naturalism, money and health go hand-in-hand. The same occurs in this novel, where a loss of money leads to a stroke for the Captain. It is important to notice in the second half of the novel that the opposite will occur for Ivy Peters, whose increased fortunes give rise to increased sexual virility.

Notice the emphasis on honor that leads the Captain to pay out all his own money. The Judge state that he despises the new generation of bankers and lawyers. This is part of the changing world order, where the old world is paying to be replaced by the new one.

Part I, Chapter 9

Niel has applied to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in order to study architecture. He goes to say goodbye to the Forresters on his last day in Sweet Water. They have started to treat him like a man, and Captain Forrester toasts him. After leaving the house, Niel wonders what Mrs. Forrester does with her aristocratic charm when she spends time with a coarse man like Ellinger.


The first part of A Lost Lady ends with Niel's departure. It imparts a sense of impending doom; there has been the financial ruin of the Forresters and many of the young people are leaving the town. The transition to the second part will shift the subject of the novel from one of old world decline to new world growth. The ruin of the Forresters represents the end of regional America. We are now going to see a transition to a national world, in which people like Ivy Peters hold business interests all over the country.