Whisked Away: Destiny and the Railway in Wharton

If you’re snowbound today (as I am), you’ll enjoy reading this thought-provoking blog from Red Pickle Dish. Did the rail system in Edith Wharton’s novels symbolize something “BEYOND” a mere mode of transportation?

Red Pickle Dish

In both The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton efforts the destinies of her characters in conjunction with the mysterious role of the rail system. Being a relatively recent confluence of industry and commerce, the railway also introduced the idea of traveling at will and at leisure, expanding not just infrastructure, but the understanding of what the possibilities of geography could hold for personal lives.

For Lily Bart, the railway is a conduit of fate.

Early on in the narrative, and throughout, she is whisked away to Bellomont, one of the two major nerve centers of Lily’s storyline, and the hub of all things determinism (in reference to her literal destiny). Similarly, the rail station (Grand Central) is the scene of her alternate destiny, the point where she rediscovers Selden. Because this rendezvous is cast at the start of the novel, Wharton underscores the notion that Lily’s…

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4 thoughts on “Whisked Away: Destiny and the Railway in Wharton

  1. Sorry you’re having some rough weather over there. I guess we’ll probably get it eventually.
    I especially liked the “The railway is Wharton’s tantamount, iconic metaphor for a mechanism of change …”

    Liked by 1 person

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