Edith Wharton in the News: Everyday Specters: Edith Wharton’s Ghosts

Everyday Specters: Edith Wharton’s ghosts.

By Krithika Varagur


From The Nation:

Ghosts is a story collection originally published in 1937, shortly after Wharton’s death at age 75, and now reissued by New York Review Books. Its opening story, “All Souls,” was the last piece of fiction she completed. It tells the story of a stubborn elderly woman, living alone in a New England mansion, who sprains her ankle on Halloween and is soon after abandoned by all her servants, who are perhaps absorbed in occult activity. The same mix of a realistic social world and some eerie disruption therein is maintained throughout the collection. We meet a well-to-do New York lawyer who somehow receives letters from his dead first wife, and the ghost of a domestic servant who tries to warn her successor about her abusive employer. The stories are all suspenseful, but not grisly. The possible witchcraft in “All Souls,” for instance, is not the point of the tale, which derives most of its plot and horror from the protagonist’s painstaking, night-long investigation, which reveals the abject isolation of her twilight years.

Originally published between 1902 and 1937, the stories are also haunted by the ghosts of greater social change all around Wharton. They were written from the Progressive Era to the Great Depression, and through the First World War. Class conflict, the costs of new forms of business, the growing pains of a rapidly industrializing society, and the particular toll of all those things on women are central to these stories as well. For Wharton, the ghosts of the nascent American century were as much material as supernatural.

Read the rest at https://www.thenation.com/article/culture/edith-wharton-ghosts/. Thanks to Frederick Wegener for submitting this link.