The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil Summary and Analysis of Chapters 72-80


Chapter 72

Kitty understands that Dorothy must have decided to invite her of her own accord, and Charles agreed - an odd choice. Charles breezily invites her to have some cocktails, and she recalls the body of the dead beggar in Mei-tan-fu.

Chapter 73

Seeing Charles again is a dull shock for Kitty; he isn't the beast she remembers, but rather the handsome man with whom she fell in love.

Chapter 74

Charles (and everyone else in Hong Kong) treats Kitty quite well, like a fragile but heroic figure. She finds this mildly amusing.

Chapter 75

One day, Kitty finds herself alone with Charles. He asks her if she is still angry with him, and asks her to note that he was right. Moreover, Dorothy is truly a wonderful woman, he says, and he'd never have forgiven himself if he had eloped with Kitty. Kitty says she is quite disgusted with both him and herself.

Kitty snaps at Charles, who attempts to pacify her by saying that black is quite a becoming color on her. Kitty bursts into tears and attempts to flee, and Charles grabs her and kisses her. The two end up sleeping together.

Chapter 76

Kitty, who thought she was over Charles, is utterly disgusted with herself. She is even more grieved when Dorothy hears her weeping and comforts her, assuming that she is grieving for her dead husband.

Chapter 77

Kitty books a cabin on a ship out of Hong Kong the next day. She stops at the home that she and Walter once shared to dispose of the various items there, and she is stunned to discover that Charles is there. He is puzzled as to why she is leaving so abruptly, and wants to know whether there is anything he can do to help her. Kitty refuses his help, saying she is disgusted with both him and herself. Charles is rather shocked by Kitty's strong language, but then shifts the topic to her pregnancy. Kitty viciously asserts that Walter is the father, but Charles lightly notes that soon time will tell: all his sons favor him in appearance.

Chapter 78

Kitty's ship arrives in Marseille, and she thinks of the nuns back in China. She is still disgusted at herself for yielding to Charles' embrace, and the freedom she once felt has vanished. She received a letter from her mother that coldly notes she is only welcome in her parents' home for a short while - Mrs. Garstin does not want to be responsible for her widowed daughter.

When Kitty arrives at shore, she receives two letters. One is from her sister Doris, who notes that their mother is in poor health but ever so happy to see her. The other is from her father; it is a short telegram, informing Kitty of her mother's death.

Chapter 79

Kitty greets her father, who is just beginning to explore the potential freedoms of a life without Kitty's mother. Kitty goes up to view her mother's body, which is silent and dignified. Kitty wonders whether her mother regrets the way she wasted her life. Doris greets her, hugging and weeping, and Kitty is vaguely embarrassed by all this emotion.

Chapter 80

Kitty dines with her father and the two talk like distant strangers rather than close relatives. Mr. Garstin explains that he has received a post as the Chief Justice of the Bahamas, and he is leaving next month; he will make sure that Kitty has a flat of her own and that all her needs are met.

Kitty asks if she can come with her father to the Bahamas, and in his refusal she sees that he has great hope for a life free from every shred of Mrs. Garstin's tyranny. Kitty pours out her heart to him: she knows she hasn't treated him like a true parent, but she has nothing else in the world and she is trying to change her ways. She begs him to give her a chance; somewhat startled but also touched, he says that she can come with him. Kitty is delighted.

She explains that she will raise her daughter to be independent and strong-willed, rather than attempting to make her pliable so that a man will consent to love her. Kitty's daughter will not repeat her mother's mistakes. Kitty feels immense hope for the future; like the nuns, she plans to follow a path that leads to peace.


Kitty thinks of the beggar when Charles mentions how she should enjoy a cocktail because the beggar probably had no access to ice in Mei-tan-fu. Of course, a lack of ice was the least of the deprivations she endured in Mei-tan-fu - the beggar symbolizes the terrible situation there generally. She does not mention her struggles to Charles, because he is a shallow man who is unlikely to understand.

Charles is vaguely amused and friendly towards Kitty, but Kitty has a much more intense reaction to seeing him. Kitty is horrified at the idea of her child looking like Charles; this would mean that she would never truly be able to escape him. Kitty's confrontation with Charles along with her accompanying flight back to England suggests that, though she did backslide, it is still possible for her to maintain the progress that she has made.

Kitty's father is reading a paper when she knocks at the door, but he assumes she will find his unseemly in his state of grief and defensively says he was just look at the paper for the first time in two days. This quiet, trodden-down man is finally experiencing life on his own terms, but he seems terrified that someone will snatch it away from him.

Kitty's reunion with her father brings together numerous tensions that have existed throughout the rest of the book: her difficult and exploitative relationships with men, the effect of her mother on her life, and her new growth after her time in Mei-tan-fu. She must confront her father and make him allow her to accompany him to the Bahamas in order to live out the growth she has attained, and forge a new life for her daughter.