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Discussion Questions for Summer

Thanks to the Wharton-L members Martin Zuckerman and Bethany Reid who provided the following discussion questions for Edith Wharton's Summer.

1. Are Charity's relations with either Harney or Royall mature?
2. How does Charity grow during the course of the novel?
3. What kind of a marriage do Royall and Charity have?
4. Where is Harney from?
5. In what year does the "summer" of the novella take place?

Inferential Questions for Summer

1. What is the significance of the Mountain?  Why must Charity go there?
2. Did she have a name on the Mountain?  Already 5 years old when "brought down,"why doesn't she remember her life there?
3. How old is Charity?
4. Are there points at which we are manipulated by the point of view of this novel? At what points can we know more about what is happening than what  Charity knows?
5. Why does Wharton choose to have Charity work in a library?
6. If Lucius hadn't come, would Charity have ever changed her life?  Why hasn't Charity saved her earnings and left, as she planned to?
7. Why does Lawyer Royall stay in North Dormer? (Why is this for Charity's good?) Why did Royall come back in the first place?
8. How old is lawyer Royall?
9. What was Mrs. Royall like?  Was she a mother to Charity? Why not? (Why does Wharton make this authorial choice?)
10. Why is Verena Marsh deaf?  What does she represent?  (Notice that her name is nice and green. Marshes aren't stagnant like swamps.) What other models of adult womanhood exist in North Dormer?
11. What is Liff Hyatt's significance to the story?  Does it matter that he shares initials with Lucius Harney?
12. Why does Ally think Harney and Annabel will marry? What does Ally know that Charity doesn't know?
13. Why does Charity write the note to Harney releasing him from his  obligation to her? Why doesn't she inform him of her pregnancy?
14. What effect does Wharton accomplish with Mary Hyatt's death?
15. What is the significance of the blue brooch?  What sort of symbol is it?
Is it significant that Royall repurchases it for Charity?
16. Is this a happy ending or a tragic one?