Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country

Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country

Length: 438 words (1.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country


In The Custom of the Country, Edith Wharton weaves business and greed into the society of her novel. Undine, the heroine of the novel, has insatiable wants, complete disregard for anyone else’s needs and frightening precision in getting what she desires. Although the novel very rarely treads into the offices of Wall Street and only alludes to the business practices making and breaking the characters, business is brought into the parlor and even bedroom of Undine Spragg,
“She had done this incredible thing, and she had done it from motive that seemed, at the time, as clear, as logical, as free from the distorting mists of sentimentality, as any of her father’s financial enterprises. It had been a bold move, but it had been as carefully calculated as the happiest Wall Street ‘stroke.’ She had gone away with Peter because, after the decisive scene in which she had put her power to the test, to yield to him seemed the surest means of victory.” (p.229)

In this passage she goes over the recent unfavorable events of divorcing her sickly husband and then, compromising her respectability, goes about with Peter Van Degen. She describes this play with only regret that she had been foiled in her plans. The language of this reflection is all business, a disturbing theme of the novel. She does not feel even compassion for the hard-working husband who forfeited his health to give her what he could, and thinks of her relationship with Van Degen as a game of cat and mouse.
Undine and her comrades of the nouveau riche social climbers embody the sense of the modern American woman, so effected by the commerce infused atmosphere, they become their own kind of entrepreneurs. Looking for husbands they go about their work with precise study and in Undine’s case, careful emulation, hoping for a glamorous lifestyle for which their husbands will merely provide a good name and unlimited funds.

This passage exemplifies Undine’s philosophy on how to go about life: by calculating and trading. Undine in her constant need to emulate and fit in, takes from the business background of the novel the same skills and puts them to use in her own selfish plots.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country." 123HelpMe.com. 23 Sep 2019
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=105587>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton Essay

- Nature verses nurture is an ongoing debate between people for centuries now. Some believe that a person is born with certain traits and characteristics that will remain true for the rest of their life. Others believe that every person is born into the world with a blank slate that can be mold into an image of whichever the parent desired it to be. In the case of Lily Bart, the protagonist in The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, the characterization which was placed upon her by Wharton made her eventual descent in society inevitable....   [tags: destiny, mirth's house, edith wharton]

Research Papers
1051 words (3 pages)

Trapped in Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton Essays

- Many people oppose society due to the surroundings that they face and the obstacles that they encounter. Set in the bleak winter landscape of New England, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is the story of a poor, lonely man, his wife Zeena, and her cousin Mattie Silver. Ethan the protagonist in this novel, faces many challenges and fights to be with the one he really loves. Frome was trapped from the beginning ever since Mattie Silver came to live with him and his wife. He soon came to fall in love with her, and out of love with his own wife....   [tags: Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton]

Research Papers
911 words (2.6 pages)

Essay on Irony in Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

- Edith Wharton’s brief, yet tragic novella, Ethan Frome, presents a crippled and lonely man – Ethan Frome – who is trapped in a loveless marriage with a hypochondriacal wife, Zenobia “Zeena” Frome. Set during a harsh, “sluggish” winter in Starkfield, Massachusetts, Ethan and his sickly wife live in a dilapidated and “unusually forlorn and stunted” New-England farmhouse (Wharton 18). Due to Zeena’s numerous complications, they employ her cousin to help around the house, a vivacious young girl – Mattie Silver....   [tags: Edith Wharton]

Research Papers
1031 words (2.9 pages)

Essay about The Witch Wins in Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

- In the small, desolate town of Starkfield, Massachusetts, Ethan Frome lives a life of poverty. Not only does he live hopelessly, but “he was a prisoner for life” to the economy (Ammons 2). A young engineer from outside of town narrates the beginning of the story. He develops a curiosity towards Ethan Frome and the smash-up that he hears about in bits and pieces. Later, due to a terrible winter storm that caused the snow itself to seem like “a part of the thickening darkness, to be the winter night itself descending on us layer by layer” (Wharton 20), the narrator is forced to stay the night at Frome’s....   [tags: Edith Wharton]

Research Papers
1087 words (3.1 pages)

Ethan Frome By Edith Wharton Essay

- In the novel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, the protagonist Ethan Frome has an unusual personality. Along with this, Ethan’s motivations seem hidden. Ethan mainly associates with his wife Zeena and his young lover Mattie. The reason his social circle is limited is because the town has shunned him. The people have isolated him due to the decisions he has made. The story begins with the new town Reverend who forms a special interest in Ethan. Furthermore, the story goes back in time to explain why the town treats Ethan the way they do....   [tags: Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton, Marriage, New England]

Research Papers
858 words (2.5 pages)

Essay about Ethan Frome, By Edith Wharton

- In Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton conveys that you will never be satisfied if you try to choose between love and responsibility. Through her use of the metaphor comparing winter to Ethan and his life, Wharton illustrates the dissatisfaction that comes from attempting to choose between two equally beneficial and detrimental choices. There are several reoccurring elements that appear in Ethan Frome; the most noticeable and perhaps the most meaningful is the reoccurring metaphor that compares the characteristics of winter to every part of Ethan and his life....   [tags: Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton, Love, Life]

Research Papers
1010 words (2.9 pages)

Analysis Of ' Ethan Frome ' By Edith Wharton Essay

- Finding himself in a small New England town of Starkfield during the winter, the narrator sets out to learn about the life of a mysterious local named Ethan Frome. Ethan Frome is a novel written by Edith Wharton, her writing style is characterized as simple and retrained, lives led by her main characters, is deceptive. Throughout the novel, Wharton builds up patterns of imagery, patterns of behavior and specially charged works. All of which serve a definite style and structure purpose. Her attention to minor details and her use of structure to relay Ethan’s complicated and tragic life story to readers enables her to portray her characters as victims of the rules of society while dealing with...   [tags: Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton, Winter]

Research Papers
2357 words (6.7 pages)

Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence Essay

- Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence “As he entered the box his eyes met Miss Welland’s, and he saw that she had instantly understood his motive, though the family dignity which both considered so high a virtue would not permit her to tell him so. The persons of their world lived in an atmosphere of faint implications and pale delicacies, and the fact that he and she understood each other without a word seemed to the young man to bring them nearer than any explanation would have done.” (Wharton 16) This statement vividly illustrates the power of the unsaid within New York society during the 1870’s, the time in which The Age of Innocence was set....   [tags: Edith Wharton Age Innocence Essays]

Research Papers
1175 words (3.4 pages)

Essay on Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth

- Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth serves as a strict model of etiquette for high society in the Gilded Age. It teaches one the intricate art of keeping up appearances and assimilating into the fickle leisure class. At the same time, the novel’s underlying purpose is to subtly critique this social order. Lily Bart’s perpetual, although often reluctant quest for financial stability and mass approval is a vehicle for demonstrating the numerous absurdities and constant pretensions of a class that revolved around money and opinion....   [tags: Edith Wharton House Mirth Essays]

Research Papers
1725 words (4.9 pages)

Essay on Edith Newbold Jones Wharton

- Edith Newbold Jones Wharton The Novelist’s Life All literary critics and sources that give accounts of Edith Newbold Jones Wharton’s life seem to agree on the basic facts. Wharton was born in 1862 into a wealthy family and raised during America’s Guilded Age. “ She was born into the lavish world of inherited wealth, one which she benefited from greatly. This life of luxury provided Wharton with a rich source of material which she used to challenge the attitudes of America’s Guilded Age in her novels” (“World,”p.1)....   [tags: Edith Newbold Jones Wharton Novelists Essays]

Research Papers
1563 words (4.5 pages)

Related Searches

She wants victory over Peter, and even Ralph, she wants to dominate their emotions and their wallets, not care for either or even her own child. This cruel mentality is shown in this passage and pervades the novel. The reader easily picks up on Undine’s greed and relentlessness, creating very little room for compassion towards her, is this the custom of our country?
Return to 123HelpMe.com