The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

The Female Gothic: Edith Wharton’s “Pomegranate Seed” and “Afterward”

Edith Wharton is perhaps the most preeminent female Gothic writer in all of American history. What made her career so unique, besides the fact that she was a woman in a traditionally male dominated field, was that she was not writing for money, fame, or even for women’s rights. Wharton wrote her Gothic tales in an effort to express and relinquish her own feelings of personal—and female—anxieties in a realm of the unknown. Growing up, Wharton had a very “traditional” upbringing. Her family encouraged her to become a well bred young woman and clearly preferred her to be knowledgeable in rituals and manners rather than books. This common restraint on females of her time led Wharton to feel a certain anxiety in regards to her true ambitions. As a child, Wharton remembered that she “could not sleep in the room with a book containing a ghost story,” and that she “frequently had to burn books of this kind, because it frightened [her] to know that they were downstairs in the library” (Wharton 303). Her fear of ghost stories, and reading in general, stemmed from her anxiety to become a well-read, educated female writer. Her Gothic tales soon became the realm in which she could explore her fears and finally be rid of them: “my terror...

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