— [http://goo.gl/Gpfvek] Detailed ("Souls Belated ") Project Specifications: 1500-word essay on the short story Souls Belated by Edith Wharton: standard five-paragraph essay format, cite your sources in correct MLA format, you may not have more than 10-15% quoted or paraphrased or summarized material; annotated bibliography with five (5) secondary sources: the publication information and a 5-10 sentence summary of that particular secondary source. The esssay has to have bibliography list or works cited + 5 secondary sources w/annotated bibliography. The works cited + annotated bibliography are not included in the "1500-word essay." –



:: RT: Succumbing to adulterous affairs is equated with female emancipation | "Souls Belated", The fight for self-determination, Lydia's emancipation | #SoulsBelated #EdithWharton #feminism #marriage #wedlock #StudyNotes #Literature #UniversityStudies


Although there may be critics who interpret the ending as a mutual surrender to marriage, they share the male's view, and the possible fallacy of Gannett's expectation. Nevertheless, the ending is at least fully open from Lydia's perspective.


Had Tillotson or Ralph Gannett been the focal point of the story “Souls Belated”, published in The Greater Inclination, society would not have cared if they divorced nor had a mistress on the side. Society would have felt that this was acceptable.


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MP3"Souls Belated", 1899 - «Edith Wharton» ::


In her short story, “Souls Belated” (1899), social realist Edith Wharton raises the issue of freedom that women lacked in marriage in American society. Undeniably, Lydia’s marriage to high-society Tillotson offered a series of social privileges. However, all these benefits were dampened by the lack of freedom that characterized married women during the Gilded Age. The dream for freedom, selfhood and independence was the sacred integrity of men, rather than women in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century. On deciding to oppose marriage, which she considered to be a prison—society’s restrictions imposed on women—, Lydia went on to establish an extra-marital affair with Ralph Gannett who saw her as his equal. Gannett also knew, as the female focalizer exemplifies, that “no ceremony [was] needed to consecrate [their] love for each other” (Wharton 95). The feminist movement criticizes the inequalities within marriage, the latter understood as the confines of a well-defined patriarchal social structure. Lydia’s inevitable choice of abandoning her marriage to Tillotson, a rich member of the upper-class society, is a clear protest against sacrificing her freedom to marriage.


Feminism, understood in a broader sense, is based on challenging the ‘public sphere’, this is, the political decisions that quell women’s emancipation; politics dictate how men and women will behave in the ‘private sphere,’ the domestic life, including female-male relations. Thus, the male-female union, or the ‘institution of marriage’ is of a political nature, rather than a self-chosen relationship. The feminist struggles in favor of women are encapsulated in the iconic expression that reads: ‘the personal is political’ (Holmes 113). Those serious encroachments on women's freedom is what disturbed Lydia. Both Lydia and Gannett intellectually questioned and rejected the validity of the sexually repressive norms of society (Wharton 96-98), expressed by Lydia in the following terms: "what object can we have in marrying, except [...] to work our way back gradually [...] into the esteem of the people whose conventional morality we have always ridiculed and hated?" (Wharton 96), and yet they re-affirm those repressive norms from which they seem to suffer, because they have inescapably internalized them; Gannett trying to convince Lydia that the easiest way to escape societal judgment was by getting married (Wharton 93-94, 122), and Lydia pretending that she was married by accepting that they were registered at the hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Gannett (Wharton 99), and behaving herself as a married woman among American riches and English aristocrats socially dominated by Lady Susan with whom Lydia and Gannett became quite friendly (Wharton 102-107, 117-118).


Although, different than Tillotson in many ways, Gannett had internalized the societal repressive norms towards women, as the male focalizer narrates that he both felt “[a]n immense pity for Lydia [...]” and understood her (Wharton 125, 127). Gannett shared males’ arrogance when judging Lydia’s intellectual thinking as a mere “lucidity in her intuitions that made them appear to be the result of reasoning” (Wharton 125). The sexually repressive norms of society internalized in Gannett made him feel guilty for having detached Lydia “from the normal conditions of life” (Wharton 125), meaning ‘marriage.’ The repressive societal norms made Gannett think that Lydia was a poor soul who needed protection, and therefore she “must turn back to him […] returned to [her] cell” (Wharton 125).


In "Souls Belated," Wharton employs remarkably descriptive imagery; her imaginative illustration includes metaphors and similes. Their journey through Europe on the train is in itself a metaphor of their evolving journey in their life, “[t]he direction of the road had changed" […] “[t]heir railway-carriage [which] had been full” (Wharton 83), becomes empty as it advances (Wharton 83). The scenery is bleak and dusky, foreshadowing the limitations of such rigid American society, those "old cats in caps" at the Anglo-hotel, where Lydia “must take her place on the hotel register as Mrs. Gannett” (Wharton 99-100). Meanwhile, as the train brings them to the journey’s end at night-fall (Wharton 98), the female focalizer observes: "[...] she was free; and not so much (she had begun to be aware) that freedom had released her from Tillotson as that it had given her to Gannett. This discovery had not been agreeable to her self-esteem" (Wharton 86). As both lovers are fleeing the stiff regulations and the tedious regularity of the social life of New York and enjoying their passionate relationship free from all conventions "like the flight of the outlaws: through Sicily, Dalmatia, Transylvania and Southern Italy" (Wharton 98), Edith Wharton gives readers the feeling of the emptiness and confusion in Lydia and Gannett’s lives by placing in the beginning of the short story fossilized pieces of bread, garlic in a bag, smoke, empty dusty seats, slamming of doors, annoying sellers, silence, and at the end of the tale “the lamp flickered and sank” (Wharton 124). Such figurative language evokes vivid images that reveal characterization and reinforce Wharton's themes; Gannett "feared to speak as much as [Lydia] did" (Wharton 84). They feared to discuss a problem that had become a taboo between them: the word ‘divorce’ “as an impassable barrier” (Wharton 86). Both the document of divorce and the theme of marriage hung over their head as a sword restrained only by a delicate thread. The image of “fossilized sandwiches” (Wharton 83) is appropriate to that little microcosm full of a ‘certain tone’ (Wharton 102), a ‘belated society’, gossip old ladies still dragging their feet, which Lydia and Gannett experienced in the Anglo-hotel after their arrival. Still on the train, readers observe Lydia and her lover, lost in thoughts, against a background of wealth and social hypocrisy in turn of the century New York.


The feminist movement condemns that women are conditioned to ‘lead a dependent and abject life’ which undermines their self-confidence and her self-respect. Self-reliance was suppressed by marriage; selfhood was exclusive of men. Feminism promotes that women are treated on equal terms with men. In the feminist dispensation, women are free to choose the roles in which they are to take part. “[...] the state, for all its occasional rhetoric about the sanctity of the family as a haven from public and political life, has had a long history of intervening in how people organize their intimate lives [...] to suit its purposes” (Holmes 112). Feminism is convinced that the basis of oppression that women experience in their relationships is deeply rooted in their sexuality, and by better understanding that oppression, they will achieve the liberation of their sexuality, and thus their total beings (Benkert 1197). In adopting feminism, Lydia adopts the central tenets of anarchism of individual liberty and rejects the established gender hierarchy. This emerges as an opportunity for women who feel that the conventional gender roles restrict them. Their analysis of power and hierarchy is responsible for them being drawn to anarchism as an essential ideology they embrace is the primacy of personal autonomy. Women, as Lydia ultimately remind their male counterparts of their responsibility not to interfere with the liberty of women and reject the patriarchal authority. This is in the view that the female subordination is based on an obsolete system of familial and sexual relationships. Thus, the attacks on marriage and insistence on personal autonomy were critical components of sexual equality (Thomas 3; Wharton 100-101, 118-124).


An aspect that comes out from Lydia’s experiences is the feminists’ recognition of the difficulties that they faced in their relations with the males that they viewed as aggressors. In feminism, the focus of women is in setting their own agenda, which is to be easily achieved independently of men (Holmes 236). In the short story “Souls Belated,” Lydia assumed the responsibility of charting her own path of sexuality rather than follow the societal norms. Being dishonest with her principles, Lydia disguised her adulterous relationship with Gannett because the newly gained respectability within the hotel society still meant something for her (Wharton 120). However, enlightened by Mrs. Linton, alias Mrs. Cope, "like a lamp through a fog" (Wharton 112), Lydia soon realized that she had to be honest with herself; it had become a matter of moral principle for her, and she was determined to take off that self-imposed façade and disclose the nature of her affair to others. The narrator relates to the reader that Lydia: “[s]till keeping her face toward the darkness, she said, "I want you to go and tell Lady Susan—and the others" (Wharton 95).


Considering her marriage with Tillotson, Lydia held the view that her marital relationship lacked the intimacy that she would wish to have with a man who saw her role as equally valuable. As the internal focalizer mediates Lydia’s point of view, “[s]he had preferred to think that Tillotson had himself embodied all her reasons for leaving him” (Wharton 86). Unsatisfied with the marriage, Lydia was increasingly at risk of infidelity, which prompted her to rethink the notions of being in a conjugal relationship that lacked libertine existence. This prompted the development of the desire of engaging in an extramarital affair as a response to the unresolved issues that she experienced in Tillotson’s territory and which she felt she could bear no more (Wharton 96-97). She adopted a feminist stance in cuckolding her husband as she found these “outlaws” (Wharton 97) to offer an escape to the boring experiences in her marriage as Wharton advances that, “[b]efore she met Gannett her life had seemed merely dull; his coming made it appear like one of those dismal Cruikshank prints” (Wharton 69). Her cuckolding became a major issue considering the tendency of female infidelity being judged more harshly, according to a 'Victorian' morality, in comparison to male infidelity. Likewise, divorce was deemed shameful in general, although a divorced man was an anecdote, perhaps, but a divorced woman was a pariah, a woman whose behavior does not conform to norms. However, it took a strong conviction from Lydia to demonstrate her dissatisfaction with the conventional social norm, regardless of the benefits that the marriage offered. She remained eager to having an affair with Gannett as she considered it a platform through which she could find happiness and, more importantly, the equality she desired. Aware of the inequalities existing in marriages, her feminist views become apparent as she acknowledged the social norms but was convinced to break them. She argued, “[…] the world should be ruled by conventions but if we believed in them, why did we break through them? And if we don’t believe in them, is it honest to take advantage of the protection they afford?” (Wharton 76). She relied on her feminist stance to defend her resistance to the societal norms on “the indissolubility of marriage” (Wharton 96).


Although the closure of the female adultery story does not overtly advocate the emancipation of female main character, one can conclude that Lydia’s decision to cuckold her husband demonstrates her feminist stance in seeking freedom. In not providing the reader with an explicit ending, Wharton promotes public debate on women’s self-determination and protests against inequality provided by marriage. In the course of the short story one has followed Lydia’s deliberations: the adulteress and divorcee protagonist remains adamant in her stance against contemporary social attitudes and she is determined to hold on to the adulterous relationship with Gannett, while not intending it to turn into marriage because "marriage won't help it" (Wharton 123, 96-97). Regretting her initial efforts to hide the nature of her ‘transgressive’ relationship with Gannett, Lydia demonstrates her satisfaction with the extra-marital relationship, which represents her displeasure with pressures to be a passive, servile, self-abnegating female in “the abstract 'sacredness' of marriage” (Wharton 95). Lydia had left her husband’s territory as she did not exist to reverentially circumambulate non-empathetic behavior. With Lydia intellectually convincing Gannett to allow her to make decisions, Wharton’s short story, expressing dissenting views on the role of women in contemporary society, demonstrates Lydia as an active, self-possessed woman who does not give in “her claims upon life” (87), imprisoned by the dictates of society. Lydia’s transgressive love is strongly connected with her freedom and intellectual independence.

Benjamin Madeira —

Souls Belated by Edith Wharton, Essay, Benjamin Madeira, PDF - Official Website - BenjaminMadeira

— Works Cited - References:

Primary sources:

• [1] Wharton, Edith (1899). Souls Belated. The Greater Inclination. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899. 83-130. Book. ISBN: 3 2106 00215 4307

Secondary sources:

Benkert, Holly. "Liberating insight from a cross-cultural sexuality study about women." The American Behavioral Scientist 45.8 (2002): 1197-1207.

Holmes, Mary. "Second-wave feminism and the politics of relationships." Women's Studies International Forum 23.2 (2000): 235–246. 2.

Thomas, Matthew. "Anarcho-Feminism in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, 1880±1914." Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis (2002): 1-31.

Zahra, Tara. "The feminism gap." The American Prospect 42 (1999): 20-22.


— Annotated Bibliography:

Wharton, Edith. "Souls Belated." Wharton, Edith. The Greater Inclination. Charles Scribneits Sons, 1899. 83-130. Book.

This is the short story under review expressing the experiences of Lydia going through a divorce while being involved in an extramarital affair with another man named Ralph Gannett. In the short story, Lydia is seen to defy the societal norms regarding woman roles in marriages. This is evident from her approach towards her marriage and the resultant relationship she gets into with Gannett. In a journey that they share, Lydia is about to abandon her new partner but suddenly she stops. There is, however, no evidence that another marriage would ensue from the relationship. Nevertheless, we do not need to share her deliberations, for in the course of the story she has already put into words her belief: “no ceremony is needed to consecrate our love for each other” (Wharton 95).


Benkert, Holly. "Liberating insight from a cross-cultural sexuality study about women." The American Behavioral Scientist 45.8 (2002): 1197-1207.

In the journal article, Benkert aims at reflecting on challenges experienced when undertaking cross-cultural qualitative research with attention to the definition of sexual liberation among feminist women. Focus is given to the influence of norms on women’s sexuality and understanding the oppression of women’s sexuality. The study was conducted across numerous differences to be able to establish issues arising because of the differences. The article was able to establish varied feeling and understanding regarding sexuality. In an effort to reinforce the understanding of sexual development, the study examines the traditional cultural practices and experiences and their linkage to sexual liberation. This article is relevant to the study considering the close link between feminism movement and sexual liberation.


Hamilton, Susan. Frances Power Cobbe and Victorian feminism, New York: Palgrave MacMillan. 2006. Print.

This book is relevant to the study considering that it addresses the issue of feminism and how writing and literature works can be used to push the feminism agenda. The author makes it clear that increased involvement of women in literature and mainstream press rather than just feminist press will aid to achieve feminist goals. The author specifically points to Frances Power Cobbe’s main accomplishment of articulating and promoting feminist views in the male-dominated mainstream press as opposed to feminist press. In Edith Wharton’s short story, “Souls Belated,” Lydia identifies marriage and divorce, with all their conventions and rules largely made by a male-dominated society, as tools to control and oppress women. She thus objects the idea of marrying Garnett as a way of expressing her feminist freedom at a time she is being released from the shackles of another marriage. Marrying Garnet would definitely defeat the idea of freedom. Wharton’s ideas thus combine with Hamilton’s to show that female freedom or feminist writing should not be controlled by men by being categorized into a special category, but rather accepted wholly in the mainstream society where women have an equal opportunity to exercise their writing and freedom, not at the whim of men but at their own accord.


Holmes, Mary. "Second-wave feminism and the politics of relationships." Women's Studies International Forum 23.2 (2000): 235–246. 2. (PII S0277-5395(00)00072-8)

This article examines the feminists challenging the common stereotypes regarding feminism. In particular, Holmes gives weight to examining sexuality in relation to male-female partnerships. The article further concentrates on the distribution of power between the men and women. Politics, relationships and sexuality are examined to facilitate the recognition of representation of feminists and their interests. This proves critical in an effort to understand the source and development of women’s liberation. This article is relevant to the study considering the insight it offers on women seeking sexual liberation in their relationships.


Thomas, Matthew. "Anarcho-Feminism in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, 1880-1914." Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis (2002): 1-31. (DOI: 10.1017/S0020859002000463)

The journal article examines the developments linking anarchism with feminism in the late 19th and early 20th-century British women. Thomas seeks to exhibit the contributions that anarchism made towards the development of feminism. For this to be achieved, the author analyses why female oppression takes place in marriages. The article provides an insight of the roles that genders play to be able to address the concerns of feminism. This article is relevant to this study considering the insight that it gives regarding the feminist movement.


Zahra, Tara. "The feminism gap." The American Prospect 42 (1999): 20-22.

In this article, Zahra is concerned with the differences in the conceptions held by different feminists. The author focuses on instances when feminists have been seen to move away from the prescribed principles. Aware of the challenge that feminism faces from conservatives, the article aims to portray the position held by feminism. Focusing on notable cases, which have posed questions on whether feminists are victims of own rhetoric, the article is keen on women disagreeing in their interpretation of feminist symbols. This article fits in the current study considering the insight provides into the barriers hindering women in achieving equality.


Further Reading:

• [1] APA (2012). “The American Psychological Association.” 6th ed. (Publishing and Editing)

• [2] Booth, Wayne C., The Craft of Research, 2nd. Edition, 1995, 2003. The University of Chicago.
_____ Booth, Wayne C., The Craft of Research, 3rd. Edition, 1995, 2003, 2008. The University of Chicago.

The Craft of Research is a book by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The book aims to provide a basic overview of how to research, from the process of selecting a topic and gathering sources to the process of writing results. The book has gone through three editions, and become a standard text in college composition classes. The book is a winner of the 1995-96 Critics' Choice Award.

• [3] CHICAGO Citation Style (2010). “The Chicago Citation Style.” 16th ed. (Publishing and Editing)

• [4] MLA (2009). “Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.” 7th ed. (Publishing and Editing)


Cite: (APA) Madeira, Benjamin (2015). "Souls Belated by Edith Wharton –an adulterous affair, female emancipation." Retrieved on (place month here) (place date here), (place year here), from http://www.benjaminmadeira.com/2015/03/adulterous-affairs.html

Cite: (MLA) Madeira, Benjamin. "Souls Belated by Edith Wharton –an adulterous affair, female emancipation," 2015. Web. (place month here) (place date here), (place year here) .

Cite: (CHICAGO) Madeira, Benjamin, "Souls Belated by Edith Wharton –an adulterous affair, female emancipation," 2015, accessed (place month here) (place date here), (place year here), http://www.benjaminmadeira.com/2015/03/adulterous-affairs.html


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