Originally published in 1901, Crucial Instances is a collection of six short stories connected, as the title suggests, by a hinging moment in the narrative through which the plot alters dramatically.... More >
In The Angel at the Grave, Paulina Anson finds herself the sole custodian of her grandfather's inheritance; an old, grand, but oppressive house and, perhaps worse, philosophical achievements that were once lauded but now forgotten so that only his name is remembered. When she researches and completes his biography she is told by a publisher that there is no public interest at all. Wharton commits two-thirds of this short story creating a morbid sense of depression and failure before, with a ring of the door-bell, she transforms Paulina's predicament.< Less
Originally published by Scribners in 1911, Ethan Frome is a novella that frames the eponymous character's story, told as an extended flashback, with a prologue and final segment presented by an... More > unnamed narrator. Frome is presented as simple enough man trying to run a farm that is essentially unproductive. He lives with his wife Zeena who is demanding. Into this scenario comes Zeena's young and attractive cousin Mattie with whom Frome forges a reciprocal romantic relationship that is never stated between the two in plain language and is never consummated.
When Zeena's impositions become too much, Frome and Mattie consider running away together, but without sufficient funds Frome feels he cannot commit. In a final, frantic alternative, the two resolve to embark on a suicide pact, but it doesn't end as it was intended. The closing segment, once the flashback has concluded, reveals, through the eyes of the unnamed narrator, exactly what resulted, an outcome unforeseen and unwanted.< Less
Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belport
Originally published in 1915, Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belport is a collection of Wharton's war journalism that initially appeared singularly in Scribners Magazine. A committed Francophile,... More > Wharton had moved to France on the break-up of her marriage and when the war came she did what she could to support the country's struggles, predominantly through charity work for the Red Cross but also in writing.
In these articles, Wharton, though writing at times in an overtly dramatic fashion – she was a novelist after all – doesn't blink from describing the hellish nature of the conflict and the consequent suffering of the French soldier. If she had a purpose other than offering her assistance through her charity work, it was to bring the war to the attentions of the American public.< Less
Glimpses of the Moon
Originally published in 1922, Glimpses of the Moon is a novel about marriage concentrating on the relationship between Nick and Sue Lancing, a couple hindered by a lack of wealth and the consequent... More > necessity of relying on friends and acquaintances to support a life in high society. Nick is a writer struggling to make ends meet while Sue is left to meet their needs through the generosity of others.
Their marriage teeters on the stated understanding that if either of them finds a better opportunity – if they meet somebody with better prospects – then an uncontested divorce might follow. Naturally this creates problems, but it also enables Wharton to develop ideas about what a marriage should entail and what makes it vital.< Less