"And all the while, I suppose," he thought, "real people were living somewhere, and real things happening to them. . ."
After a painfully honest and tender episode with Ellen, Newland realizes that by pushing her to release her wishes for divorce, he has destroyed any chance of them being happy together. He is engaged and She is married. They dance back and forth between temptation and reality.
Neither of them have an answer for this situation, and Ellen's self control is admirable. Before they part, Newland reads a telegram May had sent to her cousin Ellen, announcing that her parents had acquiesed.
They were getting married in a month.
The next chapter opens with Newland in the rehearsed trance, playing the part of the anxious bridegroom, checking the ring, pondering the presents, and waiting for his blushing bride to stand by his side.
In these moments, the dance of of his life unfolds before him. His wedding felt like a night at the opera, not a joyful joining of hearts. It felt vacant and surreal. And yet, somewhere, Newland believed that there were real people who were living a real life.
Does this give him hope or despair?
Sometimes knowing that there is something real and better out there can be a two edged sword. Having something to look forward to is magical, but can also make slogging through the present more of a challenge.
Or maybe that's just me.
Do you think at this moment Newland wishes that the Countess Olenska had stayed in Europe? Is it truly better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? That trite saying is easy to whisper to a teenager weeping on her bed over her first "broken" heart. But, how about for our grown up troubles?
Newland faces a scripted life after he had just tasted the beautiful possibility of writing his own exciting improvisation. We will see how it unfolds. Though he might think otherwise, the life he is living is real.
And so is ours.