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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

9. Social

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Activities: Author Activities

Edith Wharton - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: Why is Lydia so reluctant to marry Gannett? Why does she insist that marriage would be "humiliating" and a "cheap compromise"?

  2. Comprehension: What social codes structure the lives of the inhabitants of the Hotel Bellosguardo? Who are the social leaders?

  3. Context: Like many of Wharton's stories and novels, "Souls Belated" presents marriage as a kind of imprisonment for women. Why does Lydia see marriage in this way? How does she attempt to escape this imprisonment? Why is she successful or unsuccessful? How do the restrictions and frustrations that Lydia faces compare to the restrictions faced by the impoverished Hannah Hayyeh in Anzia Yezierska's "The Lost 'Beautifulness' "?

  4. Context: Based on your reading of Wharton's and James's stories of Americans living and traveling in Europe, what customs and values seem to separate Americans from Europeans?

  5. Exploration: How does Lydia's attempt to rebel against marital conventions compare to Edna Pontellier's rebellion in Kate Chopin's The Awakening?

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