The book is essentially the diary of a young woman who was well connected with Washington, D.C. society, but who had fallen on hard times and who had to take a job (in preference to marrying an ass). A couple of her influential friends hooked her up with a new senator from the sticks and his wife. She set about a campaign to make the two of them "factors" in the Washington social scene. As is the case today, Washington is pretty much ruled by wealth and influence. It's about as corrupt a place as you can find.