Ethan Frome and Selected Stories [NOOK Book]

Overview

Edith Wharton was born in 1862 into an aristocratic New York family. Educated by the best governesses and tutors, Wharton profited from an exceptional education. She began her writing career with short stories before moving to novels. Collected in "Ethan Frome and Selected Stories," are the best of both. In her 1911 novel "Ethan Frome" a young engineer on assignment in a small New England town becomes fascinated by the deformed and troubled local Ethan Frome. This fascination leads him on a quest to unravel ...
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Ethan Frome and Selected Stories

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Overview

Edith Wharton was born in 1862 into an aristocratic New York family. Educated by the best governesses and tutors, Wharton profited from an exceptional education. She began her writing career with short stories before moving to novels. Collected in "Ethan Frome and Selected Stories," are the best of both. In her 1911 novel "Ethan Frome" a young engineer on assignment in a small New England town becomes fascinated by the deformed and troubled local Ethan Frome. This fascination leads him on a quest to unravel Frome's unique history while discovering a great deal about the society around him. In the short story "Afterward," a dirty business transaction comes back to haunt one family in this dynamic ghost story. The humorous short story "Xingu" follows a group of posh pseudo-intellectuals who host literary luncheons when one day one of their favorite authors pays a visit. Also included are "The Pretext" and "The Legend." Edith Wharton may be most recognized for her novels but it is in her short stories that her panache, spirit, and intellect come shining through with unavoidable delight.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420945942
  • Publisher: Neeland Media LLC
  • Publication date: 4/25/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 201 KB

Meet the Author

Kent P. Ljungquist, Professor of English at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is the author of The Grand and the Fair: Poe’s Landscape Aesthetics and Pictorial Techniques, co-editor of the SUNY Press edition of James Fenimore Cooper's The Deerslayer, and editor of several reference works of American fiction.

Biography

Edith Newbold Jones was born January 24, 1862, into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses." The youngest of three children, Edith spent her early years touring Europe with her parents and, upon the family's return to the United States, enjoyed a privileged childhood in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. Edith's creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the age of eighteen she had written a novella, (as well as witty reviews of it) and published poetry in the Atlantic Monthly.

After a failed engagement, Edith married a wealthy sportsman, Edward Wharton. Despite similar backgrounds and a shared taste for travel, the marriage was not a success. Many of Wharton's novels chronicle unhappy marriages, in which the demands of love and vocation often conflict with the expectations of society. Wharton's first major novel, The House of Mirth, published in 1905, enjoyed considerable Literary Success. Ethan Frome appeared six years later, solidifying Wharton's reputation as an important novelist. Often in the company of her close friend, Henry James, Wharton mingled with some of the most famous writers and artists of the day, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, André Gide, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and Jack London.

In 1913 Edith divorced Edward. She lived mostly in France for the remainder of her life. When World War I broke out, she organized hostels for refugees, worked as a fund-raiser, and wrote for American publications from battlefield frontlines. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her courage and distinguished work.

The Age of Innocence, a novel about New York in the 1870s, earned Wharton the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921 -- the first time the award had been bestowed upon a woman. Wharton traveled throughout Europe to encourage young authors. She also continued to write, lying in her bed every morning, as she had always done, dropping each newly penned page on the floor to be collected and arranged when she was finished. Wharton suffered a stroke and died on August 11, 1937. She is buried in the American Cemetery in Versailles, France.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Age of Innocence.

Good To Know

Upon the publication of The House of Mirth in 1905, Wharton became an instant celebrity, and the the book was an instant bestseller, with 80,000 copies ordered from Scribner's six weeks after its release.

Wharton had a great fondness for dogs, and owned several throughout her life.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edith Newbold Jones Wharton (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 24, 1862
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      August 11, 1937
    2. Place of Death:
      Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France

Read an Excerpt

From Kent P. Ljungquist's Introduction to Ethan Frome and Selected Stories

Wharton tended to measure her literary achievements against those of male writers; in her introduction, she further distinguished her efforts from previous treatments of New England by discounting her role as a mere recorder of the more superficial or external features of her setting. She thus emphasized the steps in the construction of Ethan Frome—that is, her role as a conscious literary craftsman. She noted that her initial conception derived from an academic exercise intended to polish her proficiency in the French language. Developed in Paris in 1907, the French sketch of "Ethan Frome" contained three characters (the male was named Hart) and achieved a length that encompassed two scenes, or vignettes, that survived in the published version. The fragment contained a triangular relationship among a husband, his sick wife, and the wife's niece, to whom the "Ethan-character" is attracted; but it lacked the structure that would give focus as well as depth to the narrative. Wharton eventually hit upon the device of a storyteller, but she did not choose one steeped in the lore and history of New England. Rather than a character like the herbalist and healer Mrs. Todd in Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), a native authority on the region's legends and values, Wharton chose someone from outside New England to narrate the story-a looker-on, an observer.

In her desire for "roundness"—Wharton seemed to resort recurrently to the terminology of the "plastic arts" or visual media—she would supplement the narrator's perspective with those ofher minor characters. The fresh, acute perspective derived from the narrator's growing insight and awareness would compensate for what he lacked in inside background knowledge of the Frome household. While the device of an observer might lend "an air of artificiality" to a tale of sophisticated characters, Wharton noted, this defect might be mitigated if the narrator brought a sophisticated perspective to a tale of simple people. Her narrator would thus serve as a kind of intermediary between the reticent and reserved villagers and Wharton's readers, giving "voice" to characters nearly inarticulate or resigned to silence.

Wharton's use of an observer eases the reader's entry into Ethan's story. In the opening of the novel the narrator recaptures his first arresting glimpse of Wharton's central character, when he had been struck by Frome's physiognomy and bearing. Harmon Gow, who had driven the stage between Starkfield and other towns in the region's pre-trolley days, provides further background on Frome. From Gow the narrator learns of Ethan's age and of his reluctance to escape Starkfield because of obligations to care for his failing parents. The narrator also hears not only Gow's chilling comment on Ethan's endurance—"Ethan'll likely touch a hundred"—but also his opinion that Ethan's stay in Starkfield constituted a kind of imprisonment: "Guess he's been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away". The narrator's interview of Gow develops the tale only "as far as his [Gow's] mental and moral reach permitted", and he hopes that the more educated, sophisticated Mrs. Ned Hale, with whom he is staying, will provide greater insight. He cannot cut through her reserve and reticence, however, even though she has more firsthand knowledge of the aftermath of the accident that scarred Frome's forehead. Implying a suffering too great for words, her only comment is: "It was awful".

The narrator infers that he must piece together Ethan's story from different sources, and that consequently each retelling will be a little bit different. The meaning of the story, he infers, will be found even in gaps or silences after he has accumulated a succession of hints, suggestions, and clues that surround Frome. For all the narrator's curiosity about the Frome household, this technique gives his telling an elliptical effect, a sense that much has been left unsaid or not fully articulated. When the winter snows prevent the narrator's return to Starkfield after Frome volunteers to drive him to his business appointment, he is granted a night's shelter at the farm. Enveloped by the severe storm, the narrator experiences a "soft universal diffusion more confusing than the gusts and eddies of the morning." In the "formless night" his disorientation temporarily intensifies, and "even [Ethan's] sense of direction, and the bay's homing instinct, finally ceased to serve". The narrator's perplexity and bewilderment imply a need to reorient himself, to jolt himself, so to speak, into a perspective that demands clearer sight and more acute insight. It is at this point that Wharton effects the transition back to the period of Ethan's youth. Although some critics have quarreled with the subjective nature of her narrator's perceptions, there seems little doubt that Wharton intended his narrative to be more than one version of events among others. Accordingly, it is a "vision"; in her 1922 introduction she noted: "Only the narrator has scope to see it all, to resolve it back into simplicity, and to put it in its rightful place among his larger categories."

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