Abstract/Details

EDITH WHARTON: ORPHANCY AND SURVIVAL


1982 1982

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

Between 1905 and 1920, Edith Wharton produced four major works of fiction: The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, Summer, and The Age of Innocence. The publication of the novels coincides with the years in which Wharton resolved a private crisis of identity, her transition from matron to artist. For Wharton, in that period, the writing of fiction was a form of self-analysis and psychotherapy.

One metaphorical construct--that of orphan and house--unifies the four novels. To be orphaned means to be without a self; to be housed means to have achieved identity. Within this fictive structure, the quest for selfhood expresses itself as an orphan's search for the right house in the right place.

In The House of Mirth, the orphancy of the heroine dramatizes itself in Lily Bart's passivity and dependence. The house of marriage, the only structure which she can imagine, will accomodate her only if she remains a child. When she attempts to establish an independent house, an identity separate from that which society dictates, she fails. Her suicide is Wharton's indictment of social structures which infantilize women. In Ethan Frome, Mattie Silver also approaches a house as an orphaned child intent upon adoption. She sees no possibility for an independent life. A near fatal accident remands her to the Frome farmhouse, now realized as a grotesque womb. Her fate suggests the consequences of regression. In Summer, orphancy is a metaphor of adolescence. Charity Royall explores houses as possibilities for selfhood. Marriage to her guardian, the return to the house of the father, is an act of self-renunciation. The seduction of regression triumphs over the lure of growth. In The Age of Innocence, Wharton's Everywoman comes of age. The orphan returns to childhood structures only to leave them again and to establish an independent house of her own. The final image of the heroine at home in the Rue de Varenne celebrates the achievement of female identity.

Indexing (details)


Subject
American literature
Classification
0591: American literature
Identifier / keyword
Language, literature and linguistics
Title
EDITH WHARTON: ORPHANCY AND SURVIVAL
Author
GIMBEL, WENDY
Number of pages
176
Publication year
1982
Degree date
1982
School code
0072
Source
DAI-A 43/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
University/institution
Fordham University
University location
United States -- New York
Degree
Ph.D.
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Language
English
Document type
Dissertation/Thesis
Dissertation/thesis number
8213241
ProQuest document ID
303072134
Copyright
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
http://search.proquest.com/docview/303072134
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.