September 11, 2011

Afterward/The Eyes by Edith Wharton: Short Stories

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Restoration of a Late 19th Century Example of Victorian Architecture in Atchison, Kansas...06/1974


I really do enjoy Edith Wharton. She writes beautifully though somewhat harshly of the society she knew. I've never read her ghost stories, however. Much like her novels, the two stories I'm featuring here deal with the wealthy and their questionable morality.

In Afterward, a young American couple are anxious to find an old English mansion to live in, one with a real live ghost. They are told of just the house they are looking for, ghost and all. The only catch is that people don't realize they've seen a ghost until 'afterward.'

They move in and go about their business until the wife finds that her husband has become distracted by something. It must be the ghost! she thinks. What she doesn't know is that he has much more on his mind than hauntings. Afterward, the wife gets her wish but not in the way she expected.

In Wharton's usual style, Afterward is heavily descriptive. It's also a straight forward ghost story.

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The Eyes is quite a bit different. Here an older gentleman is telling a story to his young friends about how he was twice haunted by a pair of glowing red eyes. As he tells the story, he tries to puzzle out why he was menaced in this way. One of his listeners has an unexpected reaction.

When I came to the end of The Eyes, I fully admit that I didn't know what the heck happened. I figured that the eyes were his conscience telling him not to lie to people to make them happy. Still, I couldn't understand why buddy would react the way he did. I knew I needed some help so to Google I went. I found one analysis of the story and it was much different than mine. It was more of a Dorian Gray-ish situation. This made sense but I'm still not 100% convinced.

Have you read The Eyes? What did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Afterward and The Eyes can be found in Tales of Men and Ghosts, a collection of Edith Wharton's short fiction.

If you'd enjoy some literary scares, Afterward and The Eyes will do.

Ratings:

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10 comments :

  1. I haven't read Wharton in years. The Afterward sounds like a good place to become re-acquainted.

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  2. Give it a shot. Afterward is very typical of her writing style.

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  3. Haven't read either but after your reviews I really want to. I'm surprised I haven't tracked down any of Edith Wharton's ghost stories, or if I have (which is possible) they were in an anthology and I just don't remember them.

    Great job, I'm intrigued!

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  4. Wharton is on my TBR pile but I still haven't read any of them.. One day...

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  5. I haven't read these two, but I did enjoy some of her stories last autumn; thanks for reminding me that I should read more!

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  6. I can never remember which Wharton ghost stories I read because I tend to read in anthologies but I always remember being stunned (in a good way) by her stories. I'll have to search one out soon!

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  7. I haven't read these two, at least not recently so I don't remember them. I have The Eyes so perhaps I'll give it a go later in the challenge. I read The Triumph of the Night last year and thought it was quite good. And this year I have her Mr. Jones to read on my Kindle. Wharton is a very good ghost story writer.

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  8. I haven't read this one. I love short stories though. Unfortunate it wasn't better. I get a little irritated when I finish a book and I'm confused or perplex and really ticked if I have to google something afterwards to get clarification. I'll pass on this one for a much later time if it only got two cupcakes.

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  9. These sound perfect for this season of haunting!

    I really like short fiction, and haven't (yet) read much Wharton; am adding TALES OF MEN AND GHOSTS to my wish list.

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  10. I just read this. I sort of got it, and just when I thought I had an idea of what the eyes were, I'd lose it. Did you come to any further conclusions? I also read the first story in the book, "The Lady's Maid's Bell," and didn't have a clue with that one. Did anyone else read it?

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