As The Fruit of the Tree opens, John Amherst, the reform-minded assistant manager at the Hanaford textile mills, meets trained nurse Justine Brent at the hospital bedside of Dillon, an injured mill worker. Justine and Amherst agree Dillon would be better off dead if he is deprived of his occupation, a conversation that unites them in their approval of euthanasia and sets in motion the novel's major incident. Shortly thereafter, Amherst is pressed into showing the mills to the new owner, Bessy Langhope Westmore, a former schoolmate of Justine's who is now a wealthy young widow with a young daughter. During the course of later meetings over the fate of the workers, Bessy falls in love with Amherst, caring less for his beautiful ideas than for his beautiful eyes. Thinking that she shares his idealistic social vision and concern for the workers, Amherst marries her and begins his campaign of reforming the mills. He runs into direct opposition from Bessy's father, Mr. Langhope, and her lawyer, Mr. Tredegar, and indirect opposition from Bessy, since all three prefer to maximize profits at the expense of the millhands. After the death of their infant son, Bessy and Amherst become increasingly estranged, and he spends longer and longer periods absent from home. In the meantime, Justine and Amherst have met and discussed conditions in the mills, and he has come to regard her as a friend.
During one of his absences, which Amherst intends as a tacit separation between the two, Bessy recognizes that Amherst is drifting away from her. Hurt by his indifference, she defies his wishes by going to parties with the disreputable Mrs. Fenton Carbury and indulges herself in planning a "pleasure-house" replete with sun-room, water gardens, and other expensive features. By this time Bessy has also renewed her friendship with Justine, who tacitly understands the situation. Seeing the two drift apart and urged on by Mrs. Ansell, an older friend of Bessy's, Justine writes to Amherst that he should return home. Hurt by Amherst's refusal to do so, Bessy rides over icy roads on her spirited horse, Impulse, and suffers a near-fatal spinal injury. Called to Bessy's side in her capacity of nurse as well as friend, Justine watches Bessy suffer helplessly at the hands of Dr. Wyant, the ambitious young doctor determined to keep his patient alive at all costs. When Wyant leaves the house one afternoon, Justine faces the moral choice of whether to continue Bessy's suffering or to end it. She recalls Amherst's seeming approval of euthanasia both in the case of Dillon and in notes that he has written in his books. Moved by Bessy's plight and comforted by what she is sure will be Amherst's approval, she administers an overdose of morphine to Bessy.
|Product dimensions:||8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.53(d)|
About the Author
Born into a prosperous New York family, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) wrote more than 15 novels, including The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, and other esteemed books. She was distinguished for her work in the First World War and was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Letters from Yale University. She died in France at the age of 75.
Date of Birth:January 24, 1862
Date of Death:August 11, 1937
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Place of Death:Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France
Education:Educated privately in New York and Europe