The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil Quotes and Analysis

Kitty smiled with affectionate irony: it was just like him, silly old thing; he might be unfaithful to her, but he would never allow a work in disparagement of her to cross his lips. She was a tallish woman, taller than Kitty, neither stout nor thin, with a good deal of pale brown hair; she could never have been pretty with anything but the prettiness of youth.

Pg. 6

Kitty is musing about the wife of her lover, Charlie Townsend, after one of their rendezvous. Kitty has absolutely no sense of guilt about her adulterous affair, and instead thinks how much better she is than her lover's wife Dorothy. Kitty's assessment of Charlie Townsend may reveal more about her own delusional perceptions than Charlie's actual opinions.

Then Doris came out. She had a long nose still, and a poor figure, and she danced badly. In her first season, she became engaged to Geoffrey Dennison. He was the only son of a prosperous surgeon who had been given a baronetcy during the war. Geoffrey would inherit a title - it is not very grand to he a medical baron, but a title, thank God, is still a title - and a very comfortable fortune.

Kitty in a panic married Walter Fane.

Pg. 14

This quote highlights elements of Kitty's personality, especially her shallowness. Upon hearing about her sister's engagement, she is not happy for Doris but instead is mortified that her homely sister will marry before her. This quote also explains why Kitty married Walter, who is so very poorly suited for her.

It showed that he had not meant to be offensive. He did not speak because he had nothing to say. But if nobody spoke unless he had something to say. But if nobody spoke unless he had something to say, Kitty reflected, with a smile, the human race would very soon lose the use of speech.

Pg. 22

Even early on in their relationship, Kitty and Walter are very poorly matched: she is verbose and chatty, while he is quiet. These very different communication styles hamper their connection.

This paragraph demonstrates Maugham's eye for sardonic observation: by placing these words in the mouth of Kitty, Maugham also develops a character who was previously notable primarily for her shallowness. Kitty may be somewhat conceited and dishonest, but she does have a sharp wit.

She began to eat it coolly. She was seized with she knew not what spirit of bravado. She watched Walter with mocking eyes. She thought that he grew a trifle pale, but when the salad was handed to him he helped himself. The cook, finding they did not refuse it, send them some in every day and every day, courting death, they ate it. It was grotesque, to take such as risk. Kitty, in terror of the disease, took it with the feeling not only that she was thus maliciously avenging herself on Walter, but that she was flouting her own desperate dears.

Pg. 72

Paradoxically, Kitty - who is terrified of disease - seems to be courting it. Cholera is spread through uncooked food and unclean water, so Kitty is taking a huge risk by eating raw vegetables. However, she is so careless of her own wellbeing that she is indifferent towards this danger. She offers the salad to Walter as well, forcing him to share in the risk of death with her. Walter insisted that the situation in Mei-tan-fu would not be dangerous if they took the correct precautions, but Kitty is flinging all caution to the winds.

You knew what Charles was and you knew what he'd do. Well, you were quite right. He's a worthless creature. I suppose I shouldn't have been taken in by him if I hadn't been as worthless as he. I don't ask you to forgive me. I don't ask you to love me as you used to love me. But couldn't we be friends? With all these people dying in thousands round us...

Kitty to Walter, pg. 89

After her first meeting with the nuns, Kitty is deeply impressed by their lives of austerity, hard work, and faith, which are so different from the way in which she herself was raised.

She takes a look at her own life and begins to face her failings. For the first time, she apologizes to Walter for her adultery and acknowledges how right he was about Charles. This conversation marks a shift in Kitty's personality, and she actually proves herself superior to Walter, who clings to his anger.

You know, my dear child, that one cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one's soul.

Mother Superior to Kitty, pg. 97

The Mother Superior says this to Kitty shortly after she volunteers her services in the convent. The Mother Superior accepts her help, but tempers them with these words of wisdom.

Kitty has been trained from birth to seek affirmation of her worth in the eyes of other people and to focus on her appearance rather than her own personality and accomplishments. Kitty has been seeking fulfillment everywhere else - including in the arms of a married man - but now she begins to realize that she has to seek it in her own soul.

Tao. Some of us look for the Way in opium and some in God, some of us in whiskey and some in love. It is all the same Way and it leads nowhither.

Waddington to Kitty, pg. 121

After meeting Waddington's paramour, the Manchu lady, Kitty says that she is looking for something and doesn't quite know what it is. Waddington asks why Kitty thinks the Manchu lady would know it, and Kitty asks Waddington if he knows it. Waddington mentions the Tao, a central concept in the Taoist religion; it points to the natural flow of the universe, which is sometimes paradoxical

There is only one way to win hearts and that is to make oneself like unto those of whom one would be loved.

Mother Superior to Kitty, pg. 126

After the Mother Superior tells Kitty the story of how she entered the order, she makes this observation. She had long wished to make this leap, but she hesitated because she was the only child of wealthy and powerful parents, and she worried that her abandonment of the world would break their hearts.

Unlike Kitty, the Mother Superior no longer seeks approval from anyone else; instead, she has chosen to become the kind of person she long used to admire.

Freedom! That was the thought that sung in her heart so that even though the future was so dim, it was iridescent like the mist over the river where the morning sun fell upon it. Freedom! Not only freedom from a bond that irked, and a companionship which depressed her; freedom, not only from the death which had threatened, but freedom from the love that had degraded her; freedom from all spiritual ties, and with freedom, courage, and a valiant unconcern for whatever was to come.

Pg. 148

During Kitty's journey from Mei-tan-fu back to Hong Kong, she gazes at the beauty scenery and ponders her life. Though her circumstances are dire (she is pregnant, her husband is dead, and her living situation is not clear) she cannot help feeling exultant.

She has found freedom from a variety of things which had previously oppressed her, including her unhappy marriage with Walter, her love for Charles, the threat of cholera, and her own selfishness. Kitty is about to embark on a new chapter of her life - but not without some challenges.

When I look back on the girl I was I hate myself. But I never had a chance. I'm going to bring up my daughter so that she's free and can stand on her own feet. I'm not going to bring a child into the world, and love her, and bring her up, just so that some man may want to sleep with her so much that he's willing to provide her with board and lodging for the rest of her life.

Kitty to her father, pg. 173

During Kitty's reunion with her father, she spills out all her disgust at her own past conduct, and begs her father to forgive her. She knows these are her errors, but her upbringing did not give her any other skills for handling the world. She repairs her break with her past by reestablishing a relationship with her father, and commits herself to a brighter future by making these promises to her daughter.

This quotation is in keeping with the proto-feminist theme of the novel. Kitty is determined that her daughter's worth will be determined by her own character, not her desirability in the eyes of men.