Wharton, Edith. (1862 - 1937).
L i f e
- born into ‘old money’, never experienced economic deprivations (x T. Dreiser & other naturalists)
- educated in foreign languages and an European outlook
- needed a cosmopolitan setting for her fictional needs >> settled in France
W o r k
- a female counterpart of H. James: shares his carefully wrought style x but: adds her peculiarly own treatment of inner life, sense of cultural nuances, and indignation at the lack of social freedom
- a naturalist: human behaviour shaped by environment and heredity <=> T. Dreiser, M. Twain, & others
- a small-town life chronicler: tragedies caused by the narrowing of individual aspirations <=> S. O. Jewett, M. W. Freeman, & others
- a woman’s experience relater: women’s longings to break the bonds of society <=> K. Chopin
- a critic and satirist <=> M. Twain
The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories (1908) and Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910):
- collections of short stories
The House of Mirth (1905):
- a novel concerned with economic determinism
- a morally pure woman’s confrontation with corrupted morals and sexuality results in her death
Ethan Fromme (1911):
- a local colour naturalist tragic novel, in the New England rural setting
- a decline of Ethan’s marriage, his love triangle with his wife and her cousin, and his ending up in a mental and physical prison
The Custom of the Country (1913):
- a novel in the city setting
- replaces small town life by scenes of elegant society and tragedy by satire
- the eponymous custom = a divorce, used for her upward mobility by Undine Spragg <=> a higher equivalent of T. Dreiser’s Carrie Meeber in Sister Carrie
- a novel in the New England rural setting
- harshly bitter lives of small town people
The Age of Innocence (1920):
- a novel in the NY City setting
- the relationship of one man and 2 women and the absence of sexual freedom
> won her the Pulitzer Price
(Photo: Francis W. Halsey. 1919. Source: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorBorn Edith Newbold Jones. Married Edith Wharton. (1862 - 1937). American.
WorkNovelist. Short story writer. Author of The Age of Innocence (1920).
GenresNaturalism. Psychological realism. Local colour.
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"The only way not to think about money is to have a great deal of it".
From The House of Mirth (1905).