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Somewhat naturally, it is a book about divorce, still considered an indecent topic for literature at that time. Wharton explores with satire and wisdom divorce as a distinctly American custom on the eve of the twentieth century. Near the end of the novel, matrons of French society of the famous Faubourg Saint—Germain district look on in horror as a parade of wealthy American women, twice— or thrice—married, attempt to infiltrate aristocratic society. James Rolliver. Throughout the novel, Undine both adapts and calls into question these various customs of marriage and divorce. While the French may consider divorce a common American disease, America has its own Faubourg, called Washington Square, where dissolved marriages are viewed with equal scorn.

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Edith Jones came of a distinguished and long-established New York family. She was educated by private tutors and governesses at home and in Europe, where the family resided for six years after the American Civil Warand she read voraciously.

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She made her debut in society in and married Edward Wharton, a wealthy Boston banker, in Although she had had a book of her own poems privately printed when she was 16, it was not until after several years of married life that Wharton began to write in earnest. Her next books, The Greater Inclination and Crucial Instanceswere collections of stories.

The House of Mirth was a novel of manners that analyzed the stratified society in which she had been reared and its reaction to social change. The book won her critical acclaim and a wide audience. The Age of Innocence presents a picture of upper-class New York society in the s.

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In the story, Newland Archer is engaged to May Welland, a beautiful but proper fellow member of elite society, but he falls deeply in love with Ellen Olenska, a former member of their circle who has returned to New York to escape her disastrous marriage to a Polish nobleman. Both lovers prove too obedient to conventional taboos to break with their upper-class social surroundings, however, and Newland feels compelled to renounce Ellen and marry May. The protagonist, the farmer Ethan Frome, is married to a whining hypochondriac but falls in love with her cousin, Mattie.

As she is forced to leave his household, Frome tries to end their dilemma by steering their bobsled into a tree, but he ends up only crippling Mattie for life. They spend the rest of their miserable lives together with his wife on the farm. Her autobiographyA Backward Glance, appeared in In all Wharton published more than 50 books, including fiction, short stories, travel books, historical novels, and criticism.

She lived in France aftervisiting the United States only at rare intervals. She was divorced from her husband in and was a close friend of novelist James in his later years. Edith Wharton.

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External Websites. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. See all media. Show more Died: August 11, aged 75 France Show more.

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Britannica Quiz. American Writers Quiz. Who wrote Beloved? How about Leaves of Grass?

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Prepare to test your deepest knowledge of American writers with this book-length quiz. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Age of Innocencenovel by Edith Whartonpublished in The work presents a picture of upper-class New York society in the late 19th century. The story is presented as a kind of anthropological study of this society through references to the families and their activities as tribal.

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Edel taught English for two years in Montreal, but he…. The story concerns the tragic fate of the beautiful and well-connected but penniless Lily Bart, who at age 29 lacks a husband to secure her position in society.

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