Edith Wharton: A Comparison of Works

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Edith Wharton was born on January 24, 1862, in New York to a very prominent and aristocratic family. She was educated at home by a governess, unlike her brothers who were allowed to attend school. Her upbringing was considered proper and she was expected to be a debutante. As a youth, she rebelled against the rigid code of behavior that was set for her. Later in life, she suffered an unhappy marriage due to lack of intellectual and artistic shared interests and subsequently, her husband?s affair that he financed with Edith?s money (Ethan Frome BookRags). Towards the end of her marriage, she began to write. After her divorce from her husband, Edith enjoyed a very long and prolific career as a novelist and short story writer. Many of her works are concerned with failed romances, disappointed marriages, and the despair of the social stigmas of the times. The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, and Ethan Frome are no exception.

The central theme of these three books is tragic love. In the House of Mirth, there are two examples. At first, Lilly Bart loved Percy Gryce. Unfortunately, Mrs. Dorsett destroys that relationship by telling Percy terrible things about Lilly (Lewis 25). Then Lilly falls for Lawrence Seldon, who also loved her. However, neither of them knew of the other?s love. Before their love even had a chance, Lilly was accidentally killed. In The Age of Innocence, Newland Archer was engaged to May Welland. Over time, Newland fell for May?s cousin Ellen Olenska. Although Newland married May, his true feelings for Ellen never left him. May, sensing Newland?s emptiness in their marriage, told Ellen that she was pregnant causing Ellen to leave suddenly for Europe (Lewis 1288). After 26 years, May died, but Ellen and Newland never rekindled their love...