Student Queries: 2001

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Student Queries 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000  

How to cite this page Submit a question or reply
Paper on Age of Innocence(X)
The Mother's Recompense  and The Great Gatsby(X)
Interior Design in Wharton's Works (X)
Critical Biography of Edith Wharton (X)
Beginner's Perspective on Edith Wharton (X)
Immigrants in House of Mirth
Basic information on "Roman Fever"
Literary Criticism on "The Eyes"
Literary Criticism on "The Fulness of Life"
Edith Wharton and Newport Mansions (X)
Edith Wharton and Rossetti
Translations by Wharton (X)
Edith Wharton and Failed Relationships
Custom of the Country links
Edith Wharton as a Realist Novelist
Wharton's Religious Background
Custom of the Country (X)
Edith Wharton's Nervous Breakdown
Lily Bart's Death (X)
"Roman Fever"
"Pomegranate Seed"
Sexuality in Wharton's Writing 
Patriarchy in The House of Mirth
Lesbian Lover in "The Mission of Jane"
Summer and Ethan Frome: Similarities?
House of Mirth: Lily's Death
Compare and Contrast: "Roman Fever"
Compare and Contrast: House of Mirth and Winesburg, Ohio
Compare and Contrast: Lily Bart and Countess Olenska
"Beatrice Palmato" (X)
Criticism on The Mother's Recompense (X)
Edith Wharton and Wyndcliffe (X)
Question Reply
Paper on Age of Innocence
QUESTION: Hi~ I have to do a paper on a theme of Age of Innocence or a paper on the stylistic methods that Edith Wharton uses in the novel.  Which of the two might I find more information about? Where would be good sources for it? Thanks so much!       Liesel Spangler
Either of these would be a good topic, and you should be able to find good sources on both of them. Some good sources are on the "Recommended Reading" page at the site; if you're working on THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, you might also want to look at the two new editions that have come out recently: Carol Singley's Riverside edition and Candace Waid's Norton Critical edition.  Both of these have selected some of the "best of the best" essays on this novel, and you should be able to get a good sense of what critics have said about its themes and style from those.  Also, you can search the bibliographies at this site by using the Search this Site feature. 
1/27/01  D. Campbell
The Mother's Recompense and The Great Gatsby
CONTACT_VIA: Yes to e-mail address
QUESTION: I am starting my senior thesis, and Edith Wharton's, The Mother's Recompense is the basis for it.  The Mother's Recompense was on the best
seller's list the same time as F. Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby. Both
dealing with the corrupt wealthy, why is The Great Gatsby a well-known classic
today, and The Mother's Recompense hardly known.  If anyone can lead me in the direction of scholarly journals, book reviews, etc. I would really appreciate it.  Also, I would be happy to hear any suggestions on improving my thesis
topic.  Katie Parisien,
Here are some recent sources to consult, but if readers of this page would send additional comments on this topic, more  responses would be helpful.
  • Heller, Tamar. "Victorian Sensationalism and the Silence of Maternal Sexuality in Edith Wharton's The Mother's Recompense." Narrative 5.2 (1997): 135-42.
  • Raphael, Lev. "Shame in Edith Wharton's The Mother's Recompense." American Imago: Studies in Psychoanalysis and Culture 45.2 (1988): 187-203.
  • Tonkovich, Nicole. "An Excess of Recompense: The Feminine Economy of The Mother's Recompense." American Literary Realism 26.3 (1994): 12-32.
  • Walker, Nancy. "Mothers and Lovers: Edith Wharton's The Reef and The Mother's Recompense." The Anna Book: Searching for Anna in Literary History. Ed. Mickey Pearlman. Contributions to the Study of World Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1992. 91-98.
1/27/01  D. Campbell
Dear Katie,

Your question about Mother's Recompense vs. Great Gatsby is best contextualized, I think, not narrowly along the lines of the reception of EW but more broadly with a view of the formation of the American Literature canon, the underlying theses of the orginal canon, and then the interventions on that canon that have been made since the 1970s by feminist scholars who saw that important American women writers (Wharton, Cather, Chopin, Glasgow -- to name only a few ) were underappreciated.

I know that sounds like a lot, but for a good overview of the creation of the Am Lit/Am Studies discipline, I think David Shumway's book (sorry, don't have the title handy--but it is transparently on this topic once you search it) is still current and very useful.  Most book-length studies of Wharton
will include some solid information about the history of her reception.  I also think you might find it interesting to look at some of the landmarks of early feminist interrogations of the canon--THE RESISTING READER and LITERARY WOMEN -- not because they are still the authorities on this subject but because it will help you to understand the issue historically.

--Sharon Shaloo

P.S.  All of us in the EW Society have fond memories of last June at Salve Regina, where we held the 2000 Society conference.  It's terrific to know that a student there is working on EW for the senior thesis.  Send regards to Profs Littlefield, Harrington-Lueker, Hawkridge, and all! 

Edith Wharton and Interior Design

QUESTION: i am an interior design student writing a research paper on Wharton's influence in the design aspect (architecture and interior), i wanted information on this specific subject, if you could suggest anything it would help!
thank you, Raina    raina patteson

 There are good sources on Edith Wharton and architecture. Her own Decoration of Houses would be a good place to start, as would work by Judith Fryer (Felicitous Space) and Annette Benert, among others.  Other WHARTON-L members will probably have more suggestions.        D. Campbell
Critical Biography on Edith Wharton 
I am writing a critical biography on Edith Wharton, and I need some suggestions.  Our biography is to detail significant influences on the author's writing and surveying critics' responses to his or her work.  I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions as to how I should approach my paper??  Also any information on significant influences on Edith Wharton's writing and surveying critics' responses her work would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Nicole


Your best bet will be to look at the many books already published on Edith Wharton.  A lot has been written on Edith Wharton and those who influenced her work.  Starting with a good biography such as those by Lewis, Benstock, or Dwight, among others, would be a good idea.  You might also want to look at works such as Carol Singley's Edith Wharton: Matters of Mind and Spirit, Helen Killoran's Edith Wharton: Art and Allusion, Millicent Bell's Edith Wharton and Henry James, Cynthia Griffin Wolff's The Triumph of Edith Wharton, or various works by Adeline Tintner for a sense of what Wharton owed to other writers.

Good luck with your project.

D. Campbell 

Beginner's Perspective on Edith Wharton
I am writing a critical analysis paper on the works of Edith Wharton. I have been searching for sources or examples that I might look over for a beginner's perspective. Are there any sites that I can go to for assistance. My paper is due in May. I have to write 5-7 pages on her and would really appreciate any help that I can get.

Ms. Martin 

The best work on Edith Wharton is available in books and journals. For a beginner's perspective, you might start with a biography or one of the works from the recommended works page. 

A good way to see what you might like to delve into further would be to read Sarah Bird Wright's Edith Wharton: A to Z.  It is an encyclopedia of material on Wharton, and each essay includes a short bibliography on the topic. 

Also, Katherine Joslin's book Edith Wharton, in the Macmillan Women Writers series, would give you a good overview of what the issues are in Wharton criticism.

Good luck with your project.

D. Campbell 

Lily Bart's Death in The House of Mirth
I am a student in the UK currently undertaking an 
essay on the significance of Lily Bart's death in
The House of Mirth.  If anyone out there has any useful
web site addresses or has some information they can
e-mail me, please do not hesitate to do so.  I would
be most grateful.  Thank you

Alison Eley 

See the FAQ at this site for some answers to this question.
Edith Wharton's Nervous Breakdown
I'm writing a paper about Edith Wharton and her writing, relating to her nervous breakdown in 1894 and 1895.  Most information about the breakdown is vague and so my research is not quite complete.  If anyone could help me with anything concerning my topic, I would greatly appreciate it.  You can post a message or e-mail me at my aol screen name.  Thanks, Cheshire 

Roman Fever and Wharton's Life
I have to do a research project on "Roman Fever" by finding hidden details and meanings about Edith Wharton, her life, and her intentions for the story.  I was thinking of focusing on her animosity towards New York city and the culture behind it.  Does anyone have any ideas for me on where I could get
more information? 
Meredith Wetherald 
"Pomegranate Seed"
Hello, I have a question concerning the ending of the ghost story "Pomegranate Seed". I couldn't`t quite get the meaning of that tale since everything seemed to be very ambiguous and indefinite.
I know that this story belongs to the genre of the fantastic and that, therefore Edith Wharton didn`t want to give any explicit explanation for the happenings. Yet, I am wondering what she wanted to imply by that story. Does it rather depict the mother-daughter relationship or does it make hints to Edith Wharton`s relationship to her father?
I would be very grateful if anybody could give me some ideas what to make up of that story.
Thank you in advance!  Thomas Münze 
For some general references, see the Student Queries 2000 page at this site. 
Sexuality in Wharton's Writing

how is sexuality expressed or viewed in Wharton's writing

Patriarchy in The House of Mirth
i am currently writing an essay on representations of patriarchy in Edith Wharton's 'The House Of Mirth.' if anyone knows any web sites it would be really

               thanks zoe 

Lesbian Lover in "The Mission of Jane"

NAME: mandy tucker


QUESTION: this may seem strange, or perhaps I was up wayyyy too late doing my new critical approach(which is hard with wharton) but in reading " The Mission of Jane" I found that Jane may have beem a metaphor for a lesbian lover of Mrs. Lethbury-and Mr. Lethbury may have been gay-considering the passage about him being faithful by not making love to other "women" and his "perceptions" and additionally him finding comfort in dark places with fine proportions (dimly lit hotel rooms?) well..I can't find available criticism on that piece, and I may be far-fetched-help?? I also took into consideration that Mr. Lethbury said that the other guests in his "perception of right & wrong" would have angered Mrs. L and that the diet would not interest her-consider as well the "howl" of the woman-(baby) oh well..just looking for some input-thanks Mandy 

Immigrants in Age of Innocence

NAME: Sarah Bennett


QUESTION: I'm studying the immigrant's view of American life in Wharton's the  Age of Innocence. How the immigrant offers the only true view of America. I'm using the ways Ellen Olenska exposes their society for what it really is and am looking for any sources in this area or generally any of Wharton's views on

Literary Criticism on "The Eyes"
NAME: stacie Mott


QUESTION: I am seeking literary criticism information on Edith Wharton's "The  Eyes."  I've been having a great deal of trouble locating any information.  I
would appreciate any information that you have.
Thank you. 

Literary Criticism on "The Fulness of Life"
NAME: Cecilia

QUESTION: Hi! I have to do an essay about Wharton's short story "The Fulness of Life"... I like the story very much, but I haven't been able to find any secondary material about it on the internet. The problem is that we HAVE TO use secondary sources as well. Can anyone help me, please?!
Bye, bye,

Basic information on "Roman Fever"


QUESTION: ON ROMAN FEVER  I need to understand the


Summer and Ethan Frome: Similarities?

NAME: Julia

QUESTION: Hello, I have to write a research paper on Edith Wharton and I'm trying to think of symbols and similarities between her two novels, Ethan Frome and Summer, but especially Summer. I can't find anything on that book!  If anyone could offer some ideas, I would appreciate it soo much! Thanks!

House of Mirth: Lily's Death
NAME: Sarah Stumph


What is the significance of Lily's self-siecing [? ceasing] ?  And Selden's in ability to "read" Lily throughout the novel?

Edith Wharton and Rossetti
NAME: Jennifer George


QUESTION: Hello--I'm an undergrad doing a research paper on EW's The Buccaneers.  I'm wondering if Wharton ever wrote any criticism on D.G.
Rossetti.  Thank you! --Jennifer 

Edith Wharton and Newport Mansions
NAME: Diana


QUESTION: I am doing a research paper on the great mansions of Newport and Long Island's Gold Coast for the time period 1870-1929. I know Wharton wrote and described many mansions of this period. Where can I get some information on such mansions and Wharton's use of them? 

Dear Diana,
        So far as I know Wharton did not "write and describe" the Newport mansions.  Some of her fiction has Newport scenes (for example, The Age of Innocence and her short story "The Twilight of the God").  She discusses good house design in The Decoration of Houses, but she deplored the ostentatious
scale and ornamentation of many Gilded Age homes, not just those in Newport.
 You might read A Backward Glance, her autobiography, which has some sections
about Newport.  Good luck with your research and writing.
                           Sarah Bird Wright 
Compare and Contrast: "Roman Fever"
NAME: J.C.Hartleroad


QUESTION: I need to do an essay on "ROMAN FEVER" and I am having trouble  finding the contrast and comparison features of the stories.Can someone please help me out? 

Compare and Contrast: Lily Bart and Countess Olenska
hi.  i am doing a paper comparing Lily Bart from The House of Mirth and
Countess Olenska from The Age of Innocence.  My purpose is to show how
their culture suppressed them and fated them to never be happy.  Can you give me
any ideas on where to start? 
Compare and Contrast: House of Mirth and Winesburg, Ohio

NAME: Rosa Dorado


  QUESTION: I am trying to find items that relate "The House of Mirth" and
"Winesburg,Ohio" ,could you give me the clue to find information about
it, please? Thank you very much.

"Beatrice Palmato" 
I was curious about the lack of information on Beatrice Palmato.  I
cannot find scholarly information pertaining to this particular work, and I was
hoping to receive some enlightenment into this. 

Kathryn Vander Vegte 

Dear Kathryn-

I've been "presenting" "House of Mirth" to a wonderful breakfast/book club in St. Paul. We have a well read and highly informed group, but I feel some were put off by my criticism of the quality of the above mentioned book. After reading more about Wharton and her work on the Internet, I came across the subject of her story "Beatrice Palmato" (never completed) re: incest.

Seeing that, I felt that I could better explain why the character of Lily in "House of Mirth" was not a credible fictional character. When I read the book, I didn't understand why "Lily" seemed so artificial, so unreal. I did feel that Wharton was very angry and displayed a great need to "communicate" (like all writers) to her public, but what was she trying to communicate? Now I believe that Wharton was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, and needed to "get it off her chest". Her book was more of an outburst (albeit a brilliant one), a diatribe against not simply her "class," but against those around her-and that included EVERYONE-who hadn't protected, understood and loved her in her childhood.

I am not a student of Wharton, although I fully intend to read and reread her work, and needless to say, read her autobiography. I'm a former English teacher (have a masters in theatrical criticism and a law degree) but I'm no expert on the work of Wharton. I am a lover of "mysteries," however, and I honestly believe that the key to understanding her work (and her TRIUMPH) is to recognize that an early debilitating experience, which holds the "key" to understanding her work, could have-but thank heaven didn't-destroy her.

I would like very much to hear from you because I see that you have noticed the dearth of information re: "Beatrice Palmato" also.

Any comments you have I look forward to receiving.

Louise A. Klas
St. Paul, MN.


Here are a few articles that deal either with Wharton and incest or "Beatrice Palmato":

Lauer, Kristin O. "Is This Indeed 'Attractive'? Another Look at the 'Beatrice Palmato' Fragment." Edith Wharton Review 11.1 (1994): 26-29.
Tintner, Adeline R. "Mothers, Daughters, and Incest in the Late Novels of Edith Wharton." The Lost Tradition: Mothers and Daughters in Literature. Ed. Cathy N.Davidson and E. M.Broner. New York: Ungar, 1980. 147-56.
White, Barbara A. "Neglected Areas: Wharton's Short Stories and Incest, Part I & Ii." Edith Wharton Review 8; 8.1; 2 (1991): 2-12; 3-10, 32.

White and also Helen Killoran (Edith Wharton: Art and Allusion) have discussed the possibility of sexual abuse; also, Cynthia Griffin Wolff discusses the fragment in A Feast of Words. --D. Campbell

Edith Wharton and Italian Art prior to Valley of Decision
I'm writing a college paper on Edith Wharton's links with Italian art and culture, as developed in her first works prior to "The Valley of Decision".
In a Wharton bibliography I found that she translated three short stories by Italian authors, but the only clue it gives about the location of the book is MB. I figure it's supposed to indicate a college library, but I can't make out which one. Would You happen to know which library it refers to? I've already got tons of material, but this would definitely gain me a "+". The title of the book is "Foreign Authors" ( or, alternatively, "Stories by Foreign Authors" ) and it was edited in 1898 by Scribner's
Thank You so much for Your attention to my query and Your help.
Sincerely, Elisabetta Mezzani 

The stories are available online at the following address:

Here are the titles and authors of the translated stories:


Criticism on The Mother's Recompense
I am a college student from Indonesia. I write a thesis from EW"s The Mother's Recompense but I have some difficulty to find some books that  related to that novel. Is there any possibility for me to read books that discuss about The Mother's Recompense.    jusak <>         8/27/01
You can find a short bibliography on this site at recompensebib.html
Edith Wharton and Wyndcliffe

It is my understanding that Edith Wharton had a home in Rhinebeck, New York, called, Wincliff.   I am wondering why it is not mentioned in her biography.   When was she in residence?   What was written while she was there?   Was she a child?  Was she unhappy there?  Did a major event happen in her life there?   Thank you for your help.
Anne Maletta,

You can find some information and links on the FAQ page and also on one of thequeries pages.
Edith Wharton and Failed Relationships

I am writing (or trying to write) an essay for a Senior Seminar on Edith
Wharton.  I am looking for research that explores love and marriage
depicted in her fiction.  More specifically, a reciprocal love that
involves both an intellectual and physical connection is never given a
future in Wharton's work.  I am looking for suggestions as to why these
relationships are always doomed.    Thank you. 

Custom of the Country Links or Books

QUESTION: I am an isolated british student living in France, having to redo my teaching diploma (very academic compared to the UK), and my major problem is a
lack of access to a decent library, as I am doing the course by correspondence.
The Custom of the Country is one of the three books they have chosen to study,
and I would really like to know if anybody has any useful links or books that
do not cost a fortune that they could recommend, as I am on a limited budget. Most of their questions seem to centre on the undulating character of Undine Spragg and Edith Wharton's fascination with France and the French (their undoubted reason for choosing this book!). I know that this is the usual pathetic student request, but English resources here are pitiful (and I'm 34 not 18, I've already done all of this once over!) If anyone maybe who is here in France would like to contact me,or anyone at all, I'd be only too
happy!!!!Thanks Claire Cozler,

Edith Wharton as a Realist Novelist 

I would appreciate it very much if you could answer my following

      -Can one consider Edith Wharton a realist novelist? If so, what was her  contribution to  the edification of the American realistic novel?

M. Barkaoui
UNiversity of Annaba

Wharton and Religious Background

QUESTION: I am looking for information on any early religious training or church experience that Edith Wharton had. Any information is appreciated.   Tracy  11/26/01

Custom of the Country
QUESTION: For a specific work, I am looking for most information about E.
Wharton, the custom of the country  (critics on it, Mary Edmonds customs,
costumes and customers .) Thank you for sending these materials to me . Ollagnier christine,
We can't send materials to individuals, but your question will be posted to wharton-l, where members may send references to you if they have them available. 

I don't know whether anyone else has noticed this, but the phrase "custom of the country" appears in the English translation of Guy de Maupassant's short story, "The Baptism." In the story, slavish adherence to the custom of the country (baptism) results in the senseless death of a newborn baby. I was researching possible literary inspiration for Julius Stewart's painting, The Baptism, when I discovered this possible inspiration for Wharton's book title.