By J. Haytock
This examine imagines modernism as a chain of conversations and locates Edith Wharton’s voice in these debates.
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Additional info for Edith Wharton and the Conversations of Literary Modernism (American Literature Readings in the 21st Century)
After finding Sophy at Givré, Darrow drowns in his panic: “His sensations were too swift and swarming to be disentangled. He had an almost physical sense of struggling for air, of battling helplessly with material obstructions, as though the russet covert through which he trudged were the heart of a maleficent jungle . . ” (140 ellipses in original). Anna too is overwhelmed by the hidden knowledge and emotions flowing around her, and she, “habitually so aware of her own lack of penetration, her small skill in reading hidden motives and detecting secret signals” (231), finds that she must learn to interpret those “secret signals” as well as navigate the flood of them.
Lewis and Lewis Letters 284 emphasis in original). The Reef may reflect or offer insights into Wharton’s distance from Impressionist painting; ultimately, according to the novel, Impressionism and its associated subjectivity fail those who view life this way. The problem of only conveying, in Schapiro’s words, “truth to experience,” Wharton suggests, is the danger of too many experiences, too little analysis of them, and no moral basis on which to act. After sleeping with Darrow, Anna tries to soothe her misgivings by deciding that “to feel was surely better than to judge” (299).
At that moment, Darrow unexpectedly runs into Sophy Viner, a young woman who used to work as a companion in a house he once frequented. Annoyed with Anna’s apparent whims, he travels with Sophy to Paris, where she hopes to begin a career on the stage. After a few days exploring the city together, the two embark on a ten-day affair. Eventually Darrow and Anna reconcile, and four months later he completes his journey to Givré. There he finds Sophy Viner employed as governess to Anna’s daughter Effie and engaged to Anna’s stepson Owen Leath.
Edith Wharton and the Conversations of Literary Modernism (American Literature Readings in the 21st Century) by J. Haytock