The Yellow Notebook
These were her first reactions to the man she was later to love so deeply. Afterwards he would complain, half-bitter, half-humorous: ‘You didn’t love me at all, to begin with. You should have loved me at first sight. If just once in my life a woman would take one look at me and fall in love, but they never do.’ Later still, he would develop the theme, consciously humorous now, because of the emotional language: ‘The face is the soul. How can a man trust a woman who falls in love with him only after they have made love. You did not love me at all.’ And he would maintain a bitter, humorous laugh, while Ella exclaimed: ‘How can you separate love-making off from everything else? It doesn’t make sense.’
Her attention was going away from him. She was aware she was beginning to fidget, and that he knew it. Also that he minded: he was attracted to her. His face was too intent on keeping her: she felt that somewhere in all this was pride, a sexual pride which would be offended if she did not respond, and this made her feel a sudden desire to escape. This complex of emotions, all much too sudden and violent for comfort, made Ella think of her husband George. She had married George almost out of exhaustion, after he had courted her violently for a year. She had known she shouldn’t marry him. Yet she did; she did not have the will to break with him. Shortly after the marriage she had become sexually repelled by him, a feeling she was unable to control or hide. This redoubled his craving for her, which made her dislike him the more — he even seemed to get some thrill or satisfaction out of her repulsion for him. They were apparently in some hopeless psychological deadlock. Then, to pique her, he had slept with another woman and told her about it. Belatedly she had found the courage to break with him that she lacked before: she took her stand, dishonestly, in desperation, on the fact he had broken faith with her. This was not her moral code, and the fact she was using conventional arguments, repeating endlessly because she was a coward, that he had been unfaithful to her, made her despise herself. The last few weeks with George were a nightmare of self-contempt and hysteria, until at last she left his house, to put an end to it, to put a distance between herself and the man who suffocated her, imprisoned her, apparently took away her will. He then married the woman he had made use of to bring Ella back to him. Much to Ella’s relief.
She was in the habit, when depressed, of worrying interminably over her behaviour during this marriage. She made many sophisticated psychological remarks about it; she denigrated both herself and him; felt wearied and soiled by the whole experience, and worse, secretly feared that she might be doomed, by some flaw in herself, to some unavoidable repetition of the experience with another man.