The human dilemma, divorce, in selected fiction of Edith Wharton



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Throughout her lifetime, Edith Wharton, in her writings, debates the nature, responsibilities, and possible resolutions of marriages of incompatible partners. Edith Wharton's moral, social, and religious attitudes toward divorce were shaped in part by her parents and the belated Victorianism of old New York's Four Hundred, with its moral and social standards and emphasis on pseudo-respectability. Although the author's code of morality developed and deepened far beyond that of her parents, her social ideas remained basically the same as those of her parents. A close examination of the marriage partners and the circumstances surrounding their marriages in primarily eight works of her fiction shows the gradual development of her moral attitude toward divorce. From the first short story, "Souls Belated" published in 1899; to a late novel. The Mother's Recompense published in 1925; her moral concept, as it related to divorce, grew from one that depended solely on truth (critical intelligence) to one that included truth and faith (moral sense) fused by beauty into a single summum bonum. [...]