Deeply moving study of the tyrannical and rigid requirements of New York high society in the late 19th century and the effect of those strictures on the lives of three people. Vividly characterized drama of affection thwarted by a man's sense of honor, family, and societal pressures.
An eighteen-year-old girl without money or connections ventures forth from her small town in search of a better life in Theodore Dreiser's revolutionary first novel. The chronicle of Carrie Meeber's rise from obscurity to fame -- and the effects of her progress on the men who use her and are used in turn -- aroused a storm of controversy and debate upon its debut in 1900. The author's nonjudgmental portrait of a heroine who violates the contemporary moral code outraged some critics, including the book's publisher, Frank Doubleday, who tried to back out of his agreement his firm had made with Dreiser. But others were elated -- and Dreiser's compelling plot and realistic characters continue to fascinate readers.
Tragic story of wasted lives, set against a bleak New England background. A poverty-stricken New England farmer, his ailing wife and a youthful housekeeper are drawn relentlessly into a deep-rooted domestic struggle in this hauntingly grim tale of thwarted love. Considered by many to be Wharton's masterpiece.
Lily Bart, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, wants a higher standing in society. She believes she can attain this dream by marrying a rich man. Unfortunately, her true love, Lawrence Selden, isn't wealthy enough, so Lily has to search elsewhere for a husband. She rejects many suitors, always holding out for a better offer, and instead of climbing the social ladder, she finds her status and reputation slipping.
Newland Archer could not dream of anyone better suited to be his fiancée than his beloved, May Welland. She's innocent and beautiful and comes from a well-regarded aristocratic family. So why can't Newland stop thinking about May's cousin, the scandalous Countess Ellen Olenska? Not only does the Countess wear revealing clothing and express unconventional (and unpopular) views, she's also rumored to have done the unacceptable: divorce her husband, the Polish Count. Yet despite it all, Newland cannot help but feel that May is a bland debutante compared to her cousin. As their wedding approaches, Archer must decide if the rules of society are more important than his personal happiness.
Ethan Frome, a poor, downtrodden New England farmer is trapped in a loveless marriage to his invalid wife, Zeena. His ambition and intelligence are oppressed by Zeena's cold, conniving character. When Zeena's young cousin Mattie arrives to help care for her, Ethan is immediately taken by Mattie's warm, vivacious personality. They fall desperately in love as he realizes how much is missing from his life and marriage. Tragically, their love is doomed by Zeena's ever-lurking presence and by the social conventions of the day. Ethan remains torn between his sense of obligation and his urge to satisfy his heart's desire up to the suspenseful and unanticipated conclusion.