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The Descent of Man and Other Stories

Edith Wharton

Book Overview: 

This collection of ten stories shows Edith Wharton dissecting some of the customs, habits and vagaries of courtship and marriage, particularly as practiced in the upper reaches of New York society at the turn of the twentieth century (two stories, however, are set in Italy). Fidelity is only one problem; others may arise from the machinations and emotions of the protagonists or outsiders. Wharton handles the questions with her usual gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) irony and curiosity about human behavior.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Waythorn's conduct remained irreproachable. She neither avoided Varick nor sought him out. Even Waythorn could not but admit that she had discovered the solution of the newest social problem.

He had married her without giving much thought to that problem. He had fancied that a woman can shed her past like a man. But now he saw that Alice was bound to hers both by the circumstances which forced her into continued relation with it, and by the traces it had left on her nature. With grim irony Waythorn compared himself to a member of a syndicate. He held so many shares in his wife's personality and his predecessors were his partners in the business. If there had been any element of passion in the transaction he would have felt less deteriorated by it. The fact that Alice took her change of husbands like a change of weather reduced the situation to mediocrity. He could have forgiven her for blunders, for excesses; for resisting Hackett, for yielding to Varick; for. . . Read More

Community Reviews

“The Descent of Man and Other Stories” is the third collection of short fiction from Edith Wharton and was published on April 30th of 1904. Oddly enough there are two versions of the collection which were published the same year. The Macmillan edition included 10 stories while the Scribner’s edition

Some of Wharton's most memorable and inventive stories; an excellent collection (and a good introduction to the author).

I was not impressed by this collection of short stories by the author. There are, of course, some good moments, with some of the stories being very interesting, but for the most part, I didn't find anything great. There are some short stories about the publishing world that I imagine draw on materia

FIRST LINE REVIEW: "When Professor Linyard came back from his holiday in the Maine woods the air of rejuvenation he brought with him was due less to the influences of the climate than to the companionship he had enjoyed on his travels." In typical Wharton fashion...a professor, a rejuvenation, a com

Oh, Edith Wharton, I love you so. These stories are so varied and so fascinating. Some could be written by Roald Dahl, some could be Hawthorne, some could be Agatha Christie. She really was a genius.

Not sure how many times I can say I don't think short stories were the form for our pal Ms. Wharton but here I am yet again.

'The Mission of Jane' has some really great bits, especially the description of her collecting facts and using them to best others and her ensuing lack of luck with lads. Litt

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