Essay on The Old Maid - My Delia Dilemma

Essay on The Old Maid - My Delia Dilemma

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The Old Maid  - My Delia Dilemma     


In my first reading of The Old Maid, I found it hard to dissect the character of Delia.  Edith Wharton made me work hard to figure Delia out by not spelling her out directly, but bringing her on gradually.  After subsequent readings however, I saw this story as a sort of coming of age story about Delia Lovell and not about an old maid. Although the title is surely meant to reflect our feelings for the character of Charlotte, whom it seemed was destined to become an old maid in the eyes of Delia, Wharton uses the character of Charlotte as does Delia, to tell a story of a woman who gets a second chance and does everything in her power not to mess it up.

            In the old New York of the 'fifties a few families ruled, in simplicity and affluence.  Of these were the Ralstons.

            In these two simple sentences Wharton, in such a subtle manner, starts to weave the story of Delia.  Wharton introduces us first to the ruling families of New York and namely the Ralstons, and their crusty conservative lifestyle.  As she does this she draws us in unconsciously to their world so that, by the time we meet Delia we accept the ideals of the "Race" just as much as she does.  Without much notice she plants the seeds for a plot that is very devious in nature by way of the tremor of a muted keyboard.

Delia is at first introduced as a woman that has it all; a beautiful, rich, well established mother of two.  She goes about her life accepting her place in the society of old New York.  To me she was just another housewife that missed out on love.  Because of this in my first reading I was drawn into the story of Charlotte Lovell.  Charlotte Lovell's is a sad story.  Wharton could not ...


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...elia into the adoption of Tina.  While speaking with Dr. Lanskell Delia learns that Jim knew all about Tina's birth and her eyes are filled with painful tears, realizing that she killed him and he knew.  And after this realization Delia leaves Tina with the instructions to give the last kiss to Aunt Charlotte, perhaps realizing the wrong she has put on her cousin.

This was not my original topic to write on, but I could not help but entertain these ideas after going over my original paper I decided to go with this idea.  It seems that every page in the book I could read into this but will end here.  Although I may have read way to deep into this plot I believe that Delia, in this way is a wonderfully crafted character.  Wharton, in my opinion is very much overlooked and I am glad to have been introduced to her here and hope to pass her writings on in the future.

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