Vol. 11 (2022)
Scritture

The Post-World War I Civilization as a “House on fire”. Modernity, Womanhood and Incest in Edith Wharton’s The Mother’s Recompense

Simona Porro
Università di Firenze
Published December 23, 2022
Keywords
  • Edith Wharton,
  • Gender Equality,
  • Incest,
  • The Mother's Recompens,
  • World War I

Abstract

Although Edith Wharton did not conceptualize her literary production as modernist, her work partakes of some of the ideas most commonly associated to this movement, among which is the traumatic impact of World War I. As was typical of her methodology, she employed an architectural metaphor to describe the psychological state associated with wartime and post-war civilization – that of a “house on fire”. In a world where societies are like “houses on fire”, previously repressed desires and hidden secrets get exposed: this is the case of the incest theme, which characterizes The Mother’s Recompense. The prominent role ascribed to this topic in the novel creates the opportunity to address and represent the consequences of the crisis engendered by the crumbling of traditional values and the subsequent, at times desperate, search for stability and new values that marked the post-war era.

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