The answer is in chapter 1 but finding the deeper meaning is difficult for me. It says, "He had always been more sensitive than the people about him to the appeal of natural beauty. His unfinished studies had given form to this sensibility and even in his unhappiest moment field and sky spoke to him with a deep and powerful persuasion." (24). And then it says, "But hitherto the emotion had remained in him as a silent ache, veiling with sadness the beauty that evoked it" (24). So is it ironic in that it fills him with warmth, but at the same time saddens him because he can share his thoughts with no one?
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I think it is the sadness of it all. His union with Zeena has sucked all the life out of him, all the passion and appreciation for anything. His interest in Popular Mechanics as well as his appreciation for nature were muted by his wife. Instead of appreciating beauty he was shackled by the ugliness of his union with Zeena.