By Edith Wharton
• Edith Wharton was born Edith Newbold Jones
on January 24, 1862, in New York City
• Born into an aristocratic, old money family
• Raised in “high class” society known for
manners, strict social customs
• Taught at home by tutors
• Unsuccessful marriage
• Befriended by writer Henry James (realism)
• Eventually moved to France, died in Hyeres,
France on August 11, 1937 at the age of 75.
• Known for novels depicting New York
• Her protagonists are most often tragic heroes or
heroines portrayed as intelligent and emotional
people who want more out of life. The
complicated struggle of an individual amidst
• Wharton’s protagonists challenge social taboos,
but are unable to overcome the barriers of social
• England became the first nation to become truly
industrialized, which turned out to be a mixed
blessing, creating as it did massive social
problems brought about by urban slums and
• Though this era originated in England, its
influenced were felt in America, as well.
• This social upheaval was an inspiration for
novelists who explored the connections between
the individual and his or her rapidly changing
Realism and Naturalism
• Realism: a broad range of views; the attempt to
depict life as it is usually experienced
• Emphasis is on the way things are for ordinary
• Opposed to romanticism, which represents life
as we would like it to be
• A key feature of realist literature is its emphasis
on the author’s objectivity.
• Another characteristic was the notion of
determinism, the view that individual free will is
radically limited by cultural, environmental, and
• A late 19th century movement in literature and art that
grew out of realism.
• The attempt to produce a scientifically accurate
depiction of life even at the cost of representing ugliness
• Emile Zola (French) was a main figure in the movement,
believing that the artist must approach his/her subject
like a scientist
• The motives and behaviors of characters are determined
by heredity and environment.
• The artist’s task is to reveal the role of these factors in
the lives of the characters.
• Published in 1911
• Frame story: Prologue and
• Epilogue from a 3rd person narrator
• A departure from Wharton’s focus on New
York “high society
• Low class-setting in turn of the century
Crystal Ball Activity
• Theme: How much control do we have
over the choices we make?
• A few quotes
• (1) What will this person probably be like?
(2) How will this attitude affect the way
he/she deals with difficulties in life?
• “The doctor don’t want I should be left
without anybody to do for me.”
• “Yes, and my folks told me at the time you
couldn’t do less than marry me after…”
• “She needn’t know anything about it if you
keep quiet. I’ll get another just like it
• “Oh, no—don’t let’s think about it…”
• “I know I ain’t anything like as smart as I
ought to be…but if she’d only let me I’d
• “I’m the one to blame for its getting