An analysis of frustration in selected novels of Edith Wharton
Bentley, Sue Hochmuth
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Although one may appraise a work of literature as to theme, structure, characterization, and plot and may determine its merits solely by concentrating on that work alone, ignoring the author as a person and the period or environment in which it was written, one benefits from a wider scope of investigation in order to enhance interest, understanding, and , perhaps, appreciation. To understand where particular works fit into an author's literary corpus and to know that author's position in a literary milieu clarify the study of the works . Understanding the conventions of the period and the convictions of the author helps the reader to determine the purpose of the author and to evaluate better the prs'.ser. ta tion. A brief look, therefore, at the body of Edith Wharton's works and a sununary of her place in American liter a t.ure will help to establish a basis for a more cornpre-- hensive study of selected works. ' Mrs. Wharton, nee Edith Newb0ld ·Jone s, descended from old and disting1iish2d American ~;tock" She was born in New York City in 1862 1 a time when the country was in the throes of Civil War. This disaster brought about a revolution in manners as deplorable to her as a revolution in government., Mrs. Wharton's fiction later was to reflect the impact of this social change. An inflated economy, also a result of the war, necessitated her family's prolonged stay abroad following the end of the war. Her travels in Europe, e specially in Italy, France, and England, had a great influence on her; and her impressions gained there were to be transmitted later into her literary works, both fiction and non-fiction.