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Tales of Men and Ghosts

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  • United States
  • English

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Tales of Men and Ghosts was published as a collection in 1910, though the first eight of the stories had earlier appeared in Scribner's and the last two in the Century Magazine. Despite the title, the men outnumber the ghosts, since only "The Eyes" and "Afterward" actually call on the supernatural. In only two of the stories are women the central characters, though elsewhere they play important roles. Wharton enjoys subjecting her subjects -- all of them American gentlemen and gentlewomen, in the conventional senses of the word -- to various moral tests and sometimes ironic tests. Some of the stories deal with the intellectual fashions of the day -- "The Blond Beast" basing itself, to some degree, on Nietzsche, and "The Debt" on variants of Darwinism. Though "Afterward" is set in England, and "The Letters" in France, the rest of the stories are squarely in Wharton's own New York city, rather than (say) in what she calls "the soul-deadening ugliness of the Middle West," thus avoiding the need to come to terms with what fashion-conscious New Yorkers still today call "fly-over country" for everything that lies between the west bank of the Hudson River and San Francisco Bay. (Summary by Nicholas Clifford)
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