Effie wants no more out of life than to fall in love, and provide a loving environment to her husband and children. She craves a house separate from his parents and their life, where she can care for all of his needs. In a desperate attempt to feel useful in some way to him, because can no longer darn anything or clean house or cook, she rips one of his shirts to have an excuse to mend it. When others give her nothing to do and will not allow her to support their endeavors, Effie falls into a deep depression. She is happiest in Venice when she’s allowed to dance, attend the opera, learn to handle a gondola, and be in the presence of lively others who do not simply want to discuss ‘lofty things.’ Effie endures a miserable marriage, determined to remain faithful to a husband will not touch her, because society deems it normal and she does not want to create conflict. It takes her many years to display her unhappiness and assert herself by refusing to wear her hair back to cover up the bald spots forming from her illness. Though she feels ill and depressed, she makes an effort to come down to an important dinner, and confides her unhappiness in her guest when the woman escorts her back upstairs and tucks her into bed. For propriety’s sake, when she breaks off her marriage, she tells the man she loves about it, but doesn’t allow him to be seen in public with her, until it’s all settled, and even then she does not want to rush into another marriage, because she does not want to “be miserable twice.”

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Effie wants a deep romantic connection to her husband, but finds it difficult due to his distant coldness. She tries to find ways to please and satisfy him, through taking care of his physical needs—but no one will let her do anything. She cannot tidy his writing room, she cannot mend his shirts, she cannot do his laundry, and she cannot even help her mother-in-law care for her roses in the garden. This utter uselessness and the lack of appreciation, comfort, and love by those around her causes her to become so unhappy, she makes herself ill and her hair starts coming out in clumps. Rather than risk emotional upheaval, Effie continues to be a good wife out of a sense of duty, endures what she cannot change, resists the urge to have an affair on moral grounds, and only leaves her marriage when she knows she can obtain an annulment.