Summer (novel)

Summer (novel)

"Summer" is a novel by Edith Wharton published in 1917 by Charles Scribner's Sons. The story is one of only two novels by Wharton to be set in New England; Wharton was best known for her portrayals of upper class New York society. The novel details the sexual awakening of its protagonist, Charity Royall, and her cruel treatment by the father of her child, and shares many plot similarities with Wharton's better known novel, "Ethan Frome". Only moderately well-received when originally published, "Summer" has had a resurgence in critical popularity since the 1960s.

Character histories

*Charity Royall – Born in a very poor mountain community, Charity was “brought down from the mountain” at age five by Lawyer Royall, after her father was convicted of manslaughter. Her mother was a former prostitute. At 17 a drunken Mr. Royall intruded into her bedroom, prompting her to look for a job. Mr. Royall helped her gain the position of librarian, in spite of her lack of education. It was in the library where she met the learned Lucius Harney.
*Lawyer Royall – Known as the biggest man in North Dormer, Lawyer Royall became Charity’s guardian at age five. He twice proposed to marry Charity, and offered to force Harney into marrying her after discovering their affair.
*Lucius Harney – He came to North Dormer to sketch some old houses and started an affair with Charity Royall, the entire time successfully hiding the fact that he was engaged to society girl Annabel Balch.

Plot summary

Summer tells the story of a young woman’s sexual awakening. Eighteen-year-old Charity Royall is bored in the small town of North Dormer. She is a librarian and ward of North Dormer’s premier citizen Lawyer Royall. While working at the library she meets visiting architect Lucius Harney.

When Harney’s cousin Miss Hatchard left the village, Harney became Mr. Royall’s boarder, and Charity his companion while he explores old houses. Mr. Royall notices their growing closeness and tries to put a stop to it by telling Harney he can no longer accommodate him in his house. Harney makes it seem as though he left town but in reality he only moves in a nearby village and continues to communicate with Charity.

In a trip to Nettleton Harney kisses Charity for the first time, and buys her a present, a brooch. Afterwards they run into a drunken Mr. Royall, accompanied by prostitutes. Mr. Royall verbally abuses Charity, and Charity becomes overwhelmed with shame.

Sexual relations between Charity and Harney begin after the trip to Nettleton.

During North Dormer’s Old Home Week, Charity sees Harney with Annabel Balch, a society girl she envies.

After the dance Charity as usual goes to the small house where she meets up with Harney. Mr. Royall suddenly shows up and, when Harney arrives, Mr. Royall asks him if that is where he intends to live after he marries Charity.

After an angry Mr. Royall leaves, Harney promises Charity that he is going to marry her, but that he has to go away for a while first.

After Harney has left, Charity’s friend Ally lets slip that she saw Harney leave town with Annabel Balch. Ally says that Harney and Annabel are engaged to be married. Charity writes a letter to Harney telling him to do the right thing and marry Annabel.

Charity has been feeling sick so she goes to Dr. Merkle, who confirms her suspicion that she is pregnant. After the examination Dr. Merkle charges five dollars and Charity, not having enough money to cover it, has to leave the brooch Harney gave her. When she gets home she reads a letter from Harney, stating that he will do his best for them to be together.

Charity makes her way to the mountain, intending to look for her mother. On the way she sees the minister Mr. Miles, and her friend Liff Hyatt. They are on their way up the mountains because Charity’s mother is dying. When they arrive Charity’s mother has already died, and they bury her.

Charity stays in the mountain overnight, where she sees the abject poverty and resolves not to raise her child there. She decides that she is going to be a prostitute, and with the money she earns she will hire someone to take care of her child. Amidst her journey she sees Mr. Royall, who has come to pick her up. Mr. Royall offers to marry her.

After Charity marries Mr. Royall in Nettleton, she realizes that he knows she is pregnant and that is why he married her. He gives her forty dollars to buy clothes, and she goes to Dr. Merkle to get her brooch. Dr. Merkle has heard of her marriage to Mr. Royall, and refuses to give the brooch for less than forty dollars. Charity gives her the money, then writes to Harney, telling him that she has married Mr. Royall. She then goes back to Mr. Royall, and to North Dormer.

External links


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