In her long career, which stretched over forty years and included the publication of more than forty books, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) portrayed a fascinating segment of the American experience. She was a born storyteller, whose novels are justly celebrated for their vivid settings, satiric wit, ironic style, and moral seriousness. Her characters, such as Ellen Olenska in The Age of Innocence, Ethan Fromme, and the charming but ineffectual Lily Bart in The House of Mirth, are some of the most memorable in American literature. Often portrayed as tragic victims of cruel social conventions, they are trapped in bad relationships or confining circumstances. Her own life stands as an example of the obstacles that a woman of her time and place had to overcome to find self-realization.