It is the arrival of May’s cousin, Ellen Olenska, that hastens Newland to announce his engagement. Ellen has returned from Europe where she was married to a cruel, abusive, and powerful man. She has brought with her what was then considered a horrible scandal. Ellen is a serious woman who is slight with dark features. She has an auro around her that makes her very intriguing, especially to men.
The plot unfolds as Newland finds himself drawn to the mysterious Ellen who bears a tragic history. It has been years since Ellen has lived in America and she is now foreighn to the culture and society of New York. She makes many blunders in society’s eyes and is in a way, put out from them. Newland is given the job of teaching her how to behave in America. He also is given the task of persuading her to give up the contemplation of a divorce, as to prevent the scandal that would fall on the family.
Newland suddenly finds himself pondering the life in which being married to May will lead him. Unexciting, dull, and lifeless is the everyday drag of monotony that precedes only to death. He sicovers his job is purposeless as well, and sees no worth in this life of his.
As he is around Ellen more and more, he sees her standpoint and views. He realizes that he loves her and wants to live the life that only she can give him. One where unexpected things happen everyday. The exciement it would bring appeals to him as the sole basis for his life. But even from the beginning, Neland knows that he never really has a chance. he is engaged to May, and he will marry May, and spend a lifetime with her. Both he and Ellen know this, and in the end, just come to accept it.
The second part of the novel travels through the first nine months of married life. During this time, Newland tries to find a way in which he and Ellen can life together without hurting May or disgracing society. Ellen leaves for a short time, hoping that it will alter both of their feelings towards one another. It doesn’t. Upon her coming back to help care for her aunt who has just suffered a stroke, they find they are still compelled to each other. For this reason, Ellen is convinced that she must leave America and return to Europe. She doesn’t do this so much for herself or even Newland, but for May. newland finds out that Ellen plans to leave, and at her going-away dinner party that May hosts for here, Newland makes one last valiant effort to leave this encompassing world and return with Ellen to Europe.
As he tells his wife that he needs to get away for a while and plans on traveling through Europe, May does what he never expected she could do. She surprise and astounds him; she informs him that she is pregnant.
In the final chapter of the novel, it is many years later. May is dead, but she has left behind three prosperous young adults. The oldest sone, Dallas takes Newland with him to Europe. Once there, Dallas intends to stop and visit Ellen, whom Newland hadn’t seen since the dinner party. As they arrive outside her apartments, Newland sends Dallas up and remains outside. He reminisces on the two years he spent with Ellen, and also on his long life with May. He envisions going up to join Ellen and Dallas and he sees everything so vividly in his mind. “It’s more real to me here than if I went up