Charity Begins and Ends at Home: Edith Wharton’s Summer
Edith Wharton’s Summer (1917) signals the death of romantic myths of adoption and nation building. Rescued from a renegade Mountain community, Charity bears a name ironically referencing acts of child saving in nineteenth-century adoption narratives. Reflecting the novel’s World War I context, Charity’s is a refugee, then a rebel, as she copes first with adoption by and then with marriage to her adoptive father after a brief love affair leaves her pregnant. Charity’s decision to raise rather than abort or abandon her child anticipates twentieth-century issues facing birth mothers, just as her marked ethnicity positions the novel in a larger dialogue about nationhood, race, and eugenics. Charity improves the quality of her lineage and implicitly of the nation but loses her bid for autonomy.
Keywords: Edith Wharton, Summer, Charity Royall, Lawyer Royall, Lucius Harney, realism, sentimentality, modernism, illegitimacy, birth story, temperance, incest, eugenics, World War I, irony, Bildungsroman, coming-of-age narrative
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.