Edith Wharton

Topics: Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence, Henry James Pages: 5 (1557 words) Published: March 26, 2006
Introduction – Grounding

"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it"

Vesalius in "Zante" (Bartlett 700).

Edith Wharton's outside appearance in no way reflected the inner struggles she dealt with her whole life. She was born into a wealthy, affluent, socially prominent family. On the outside it appeared she had everything, yet the reader will come to find that she had struggles like everyone else, possibly worse than the average person. Edith Wharton rose above society's walls to overcome barriers such as equality that existed for young women in the late eighteen hundreds.

Edith Wharton was an author in the Age of Realism who stood out to me. I selected to research her because of her societal rank and how she led two lives. One life was an author who rebelled against the very society that brought her up and the other life was the wealthy socialite. I also was intrigued in her interest in New York City fashion as she was amongst some of the most socially prominent families in the country. What I know; assume or imagine

I know Edith Wharton was born in to a very wealthy family in New York City. Her writings are based upon the high societal rank she was raised in. My assumptions of her writings consist of her speaking well about the elite group she socialized with. I assume that Edith Wharton's beliefs are that she is above the average person and is out of touch with the real world. I feel that based upon the society she was born into that she was also very fashion conscience. I imagine her life was full of money and greed, and unfortunately never caught on to the little things in life that make it so special.

The Search (two main parts)
My first step in the research of Edith Wharton was going to the library on February 22, 2005. Not knowing much about her, I found four books which were as follows: Classic Love and Romance Literature, A Reader's Guide to Twentieth Century Writers, The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Literature in English, and Famous American Authors. All of these books included extensive articles that portrayed Edith Wharton.

The next step in my researching process took place the following day by finding a quotation of Wharton's in the library. In Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett, I found the quote that was not only one directly from one of Wharton's short stories, but one that portrayed herself to a great extent. Also on February 24, 2005 I looked in our class textbook, Prentice Hall Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: The American Experience, and found some quality information on Wharton. To sum up my researching information on March 6, 2005, I found an Internet source titled "Edith Wharton".

Edith Newbold Jones was born on January 24, 1862 into one of societal's highest families. A major assumption I made was because she was born into such a wealthy family she was protected from the real world. As a young child she looked up to her mother greatly. Her only wishes then were to meet the high societal standards of her peers and to be the best dressed woman in New York City (Bolton 167). In an outside view of Edith Wharton my assumptions were correct in many ways. Her parents did not want to strain her mind because of an early illness of typhoid fever. She most importantly had private tutors to increase her knowledge in the "proper" English language and also proper etiquette. She was also taught Italian, French, and German by a series of tutors and her parents omitted Greek and Latin because of her earlier illness (Bolton 168). The assumption I made of Edith Wharton being above the average person was not completely correct because as she got older she had her own struggles within her protected world. When I made my assumptions I did not know Edith Wharton's inner turmoil. Although Edith Wharton had playmates arranged by her mother, she preferred to be alone with her imaginary playmates....

Cited: Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980.
Bolton, Sarah K. Famous American Authors. New York: Vail-Ballou Press Inc., 1954.
Brackett, Virginia. Classic Love and Romance Literature. California: ABC-CLIO, Inc. 1999.
"Edith Wharton". Prentice Hall Literature Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: The American Experience. Ed. Ellen Bowler et al. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall Inc., 1999. 758.
Liukkonen, Petri. "Edith Wharton." Author 's Calendar: Books and Writers. 9 Mar. 2005. .
Parker, Peter, ed. A Reader 's Guide to Twentieth Century Writers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Stringer, Jenny, ed. The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
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