Irony in the Short Stories of Edith Wharton

Price:$159.95 + shipping
(Click the PayPal button to buy)
In response to the disintegration of Emersonian idealism at the end of the nineteenth century, some writers resorted to sentimental or sensational fiction; not so Edith Wharton who turned instead to irony as both her mark of literary distinction and her comment on the tendencies of the fiction of her day. This study will examine a relatively small group of stories that represent the span of Wharton’s literary career and the “crucial instances” of Wharton’s complex irony. Wharton’s use of irony is directly related to her choice of three types of third-person narrators: the observer narrator, the spectator-narrator, and the suppressed narrator, each of whom convey different levels of ironic effect.


“We know Edith Wharton as a writer of novels – she wrote twenty-five. Although she won her greatest popular and critical successes with her novels, she never gave up writing short stories ... Dr. Charlee Sterling has selected a number of stories ... to study in depth. In doing so, she not only provides readers with insight into the individual stories she discusses but also develops a basis for analyzing Wharton’s use of irony in all her fiction. As Dr. Sterling points out, Wharton’s stories have been largely neglected by critics. This study fills in the missing pieces in Wharton criticism. Dr. Sterling’s book with its many examples and detailed analyses of a manageable list of stories will give readers familiar with Wharton’s stories access to the subtle use of irony in these tales; equally, this study will send readers who have concentrated on Wharton’s novels back, with renewed interest and appreciation, to her short stories.” – Carol B. Sapora, Professor of Language and Literature, Villa Julie College

Table of Contents

Preface by Carol B. Sapora
1. Irony and the Observer Narrator
2. The Ironic Spectator
3. Self-Conscious, Self-Ironized
4. The “Difference” of Wharton’s “Genius”

Other Literature - American Books