Shallow, poorly educated Kitty marries the passionate and intellectual Walter Fane and has an affair with a career politician, Charles Townsend, assistant colonial secretary of Hong Kong. When Walter discovers the relationship, he compels Kitty to accompany him to a cholera-infested region of mainland China, where she finds limited happiness working with children at a convent. But when Walter dies, she is forced to leave China and return to England. Generally abandoned, she grasps desperately for the affection of her one remaining relative, her long-ignored father. In the end, in sharp, unexamined contrast to her own behavior patterns, she asserts that her unborn daughter will grow up to be an independent woman. The Painted Veil was first published in 1925 and is usually described as a strong story about a woman's spiritual journey. To more pragmatic, modern eyes, Kitty's emotional growth appears minimal.