I have been trying to figure out what's so terrible about Kate's scheme in The Wings of the Dove (thought I was done with that, didn't you? Heh). I mean, it's not as if she sets out to rape and pillage. There's no high treason. No one is guillotined, or crucified, or tied to a chair and forced to listen to The Itsy Bitsy Spider 49 times in a row.
No, Kate does something much more innocuous, yet at the same time more profoundly icky.
(Pause for SPOILER ALERT. Can you really issue a spoiler alert for a classic novel? Never mind. I just have. Because really, everyone should read the book! And then talk to me about it! At length! With cheese!)
What Kate does is to send her boyfriend to make love to a dying heiress. Now, when I say "make love," I mean it in the nineteenth- rather than the twentieth-century sense. (Though come to think of it, WOD features one of the most minimalistically sexy sex scenes I've ever had the privilege to read. It consists of a chapter break and is both passionate and transgressive.) In essence, Kate sends Merton to make Milly love him.
What's so awful about this? I think I've finally decided it's not so much the badness of the act as the fact that the act is sucking, like a leech, the blood of something good. Milly really does love Merton (god knows why; the man's a sap), and Kate's scheme turns Milly's love against her.
It's like defacing someone's valentine, or telling your husband you've been out shopping for his birthday when in fact you've been making chapter breaks with your secretary.
Nasty. But fun to read.