— [http://goo.gl/Vr051k] In 1-2 paragraphs, readers comment what the short story "Souls Belated " is about: what is the story Souls Belated a study of? How they know (what textual evidence do they have)? What is Wharton's answer to the question (in their opinion), and how do they know (textual evidence)? –

:: RT: Edith Wharton: "[M]arriage is a one long sacrifice" ("The Age of Innocence." 1920.) | 'Authentic love' should build on the shared affirmation of "two liberties." | "Souls Belated", analysis, comments | #SoulsBelated #EdithWharton #feminism #marriage #wedlock #StudyNotes #Literature #UniversityStudies

Had Tillotson or 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.


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

Souls Belated by Edith Wharton

Sarah Hankins' comment about Souls Belated.

«The author was trying to convey through the text that sometimes, it is necessary to conform to social norms—but that is not necessarily a bad thing. After reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin, it is all too easy for us to maintain the mindset that marriage connotes slavery-like submission to ones spouse, and in a way, the author of Soul’s Belated does convey that in the beginning of the story with mention of Lydia’s failed marriage; however, when we look to the end of the story when Lydia runs back to Gannet and it is assumed they will be married, the author points out an important truth about love and marriage that we seem to overlook. Marriage cannot corrupt true love. The question of the hour is: if marrying someone you love makes you fall out of love, then were you ever truly in love with them in the first place? The answer is no.

Lydia ran back to Gannett because she, for the first time, put complete trust in her love for Gannett and decided that their love was worth the risk because it was true. The author of the text points out the value of marriage—an abstract reward that goes beyond social advantages.

When it came down to Lydia with one foot on the boat and the other on the dock, her body between staying with Gannett for love’s sake and leaving to maintain her social reputation, she stays because she is willing to risk it all for a married life with Gannett. Marriage is not enslavement; it is freedom. As Lydia explains on page 226 as evident through lines such as “I’ve behaved basely, abominably, since we came here: letting these people believe we were married—lying with every breath I drew—,” she has not been able to be her authentic self because of the lies she told them. Perhaps she was lying to herself too, saying that marriage was null and void because of her bad experience with it?»

My response/comments about Sarah Hankins' thoughts on Souls Belated.

A Christian point of view is that 'love' is absolute, that love cannot change. The concept of love [in the Western world] is complicated as it has been developed into distinct concepts; the nature of romantic love changes through stages and phases. The concept of love is relative as "it has shifted and changed according to individual inclinations within the context and cultural limitations of time and place" (Andersen: introduction). Generally, when it comes down to marriage one can distinguish between 'caring and concern for the other' and 'fall in love/attraction/being in love.' Asserting that "if marrying someone you love makes you fall out of love, then were you ever truly in love with them in the first place? The answer is no." is like saying: 'Those who were not born, did not care about the world." It is not a deep philosophical reflection.

Sarah Hankins assumes that the only way women, as Lydia, can be together with a partner is by means of nuptial ceremony. As Andersen explains: "[w]e fall in love and it is a wonderful feeling. It virtually lifts us from our feet and opens the door to exalted being. Irresistibly pulled by its force we eagerly "marry for love" and expect to "live happily ever after," for after all, marriage is "a dance on roses" and "love conquers all." These ideas are all deeply imbedded in our popular culture. But while they suggest that the love a young man and woman feel for each other on the wedding day will last forever, divorce statistics tell a different story" (2). Driven by the desire for freedom in her relationships, even though married legally to Tillotson, Lydia went on to establish an extra-marital affair with Gannett with the conviction of finding the freedom she desperately sought. She remained critical of the lack of freedom in marriages. Marriage "has tended to be a rigid affair with little opportunity for individual freedom and potential" (Andersen 132).

Now, if you say that "[t]he author [Edith Wharton] was trying to convey through the text that sometimes [...] it is necessary to conform to social norms—but that is not necessarily a bad thing [...]," then you missed the point. The narrator is not relating that Lydia quickly acquitted herself to the lifestyle of a married woman when living with Gannett because she was comfortable with that situation; she adopts their lifestyle because she is afraid of them finding out that they are only lovers, not necessarily because she is comfortable. Lydia is struggling within her about not being honest with herself because "[she has] behaved basely, abominably, since [they] came here" (Wharton 119), "[t]hese people—the very prototypes of the bores you took me away from, with the same fenced−in view of life, the same keep−off−the−grass morality, the same little cautious virtues and the same little frightened vices—well, I've clung to them, I've delighted in them, I've done my best to please them. I've toadied Lady Susan, I've gossiped with Miss Pinsent, I've pretended to be shocked with Mrs. Ainger. Respectability!" (Wharton 120) Then she decides that she has to stop pretending: "Still keeping her face toward the darkness, she said, "I want you to go and tell Lady Susan—and the others."" (Wharton 11)

Sarah Hankins argues that "when we look to the end of the story when Lydia runs back to Gannet and it is assumed they will be married, the author points out an important truth about love and marriage that we seem to overlook. Marriage cannot corrupt true love." Wait. "Lydia runs back to Gannett"? No. She does not. Let us remind Sarah Hankins how she goes back: "Lydia, with slow steps, was walking toward the garden . . . (Wharton 128)" Lydia was neither running nor heading 'to Gannett.' I agree, it is only assumed that they will get married, but it is only an assumption, after all. Nevertheless, let us assume for a moment that they will get married in Paris. If they do so, it will be because of her own decision, her being independent, not because Gannett stopped her on her way to the boat or because she felt obliged to get married. If they are going to Paris, there are evidence in the story that she will not get married in order to be with her lover, and is evident too that he won’t insist in getting married as he lets her to decide.

Sarah Hankins keeps on arguing that "[t]he author of the text points out the value of marriage—an abstract reward that goes beyond social advantages. [...] Marriage is not enslavement; it is freedom." Lydia, however, has a strong belief that marriage symbolizes "the secret fear of each that the other may escape" (Wharton 95). "Nineteenth century Victorian marriages idealized family life and conjugal affection [...] To love one another was a social duty and respectability was a key value of the age" (Andersen 126). Actually, Lydia's adulterous relationship is what is most valuable for her; it means being together with Gannett because she has chosen that modus vivendi, not because the pressure of societal norms that make her think that she has to be engaged in the institution of marriage. It means not to have been pushed to be together because of conventions; the whole point is that her ‘illicit love’ is what she is looking for, it gives her freedom, it means freedom.

Sarah Hankins makes the following assertion: "Perhaps she was lying to herself [...] that marriage was null and void because of her bad experience with it?" When Lydia says: "We've been too close together—that has been our sin." she is implying that marriage is a covenant that keeps a couple together because they must, not because they want to, and not been married allows them to go from each other whenever they want to, without feeling guilty about that act.

The closure of the short-story "Souls Belated", portrays Lydia as an autonomous woman. It reflects the changing situation of her male counterpart in the sense that she is shown as self-reliant and having the opportunity of free choice - two characteristics which often brought women in conflict with their environment and the social conventions.

Lydia is strong-minded, as Gannett thought of her: "she asked so much of life, in ways so complex and immaterial" (Wharton 127). The internal focalizer mediates Lydia’s point of view, "[n]othing is more perplexing to man than the mental process of a woman who reasons her emotions" (Wharton 97). Her lover, Gannett, is struggling within him, he could have stopped her of leaving him, but he would not, thus reaffirming her self-reliance: "If any thought emerged from the tumult of his sensations, it was that he must let her go if she wished it" (Wharton 126).

Sarah Hankins' opinion is that "[m]arriage cannot corrupt love;" but Lydia's opinion is the opposite: "I only want you to see that marriage won't help it." (Wharton 123). Lydia's attempt to liberate herself has an even greater significance since it constitutes a defiance to the severe obligations of the puritan ethic which exercised restraints not only on women, but also on men, such as Gannett's views. Lydia tells her lover: "We are together to-day because we choose to be— don't let us look any farther than that!" (Wharton 97) For Lydia, being in an adulterous relationship equates with equality, her emancipation.

Nineteenth century Victorian society was patriarchal; men and women who lived at that time were the 'souls belated.' Lydia and Gannett were way ahead of that patriarchal thought, "it was not until the twentieth century that romantic love between a man and a woman became the acceptable and usually the only ground for marriage" (Andersen 127).

Benjamin Madeira —

Souls Belated by Edith Wharton, Google Book, PDF - Official Website - BenjaminMadeira


• [1] Andersen, Dina (1998). CONCEPTS OF LOVE AND SOME IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION. Thesis. Bibliothèque nationale du Canada. 1998. Print.

• [2] Wharton, Edith (1899). Souls Belated. The Greater Inclination. Charles Scribneits Sons, 1899. 83-130. Book.

— 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).

Comentario » Comments »»» Blogger Disqus

  1. The opinions of members of society shape the identity of any individual who exposes him or herself to them. We, as individuals, conform to popular culture in accordance to the variety of people and places in which we choose to surround ourselves with. The soul purpose of transforming our principles to satisfy the majority of society is constituted by the fact that all individuals feel the desire to be accepted. Potentially, individuals will do anything it takes in order to retain the social advantages that accompany being an avid citizen in society. In the opening of the text, Lydia makes it apparent that she has no intentions of marrying Gannett due to the fact that it is what society wants and expects. Lydia refuses to fall “into the esteem of people whose conventional morality [she has] always ridiculed and hated” (Wharton 96).

    The principle that Lydia set forth to refuse to conform to any kind of prejudice behavior proves to be more challenging than expected when she and Gannett arrive at the hotel. This hotel represents a society that Lydia was so desperately trying to escape from, but instead was pulled directly back into. She expresses her strong disapproval of marriage once again, but after receiving all of the positive attention and social advantages that accompany being married to a man of high status, she begins to have second thoughts. Through the character of Lydia, Edith Wharton expresses the effect that society possesses over an individual’s opinions and the rapid speed in which someone can reevaluate their morals based on societal benefits.

  2. An important aspect that Souls Belated talks about is the struggle of being an individual in a very overpowering society and uses the validity of marriage to prove a point. Lydia has a strong belief that marriage symbolizes “the secret fear of each that the other may escape” (Wharton 95) and helps one work their way “gradually...into the esteem of the people whose conventional morality we[they] have always ridiculed and hated” (Wharton 95-96). When she was married, Lydia was tied down to a role of being a loyal wife, who completely supports her husband, takes care of the children, and plays the role of a housewife- “doing exactly the same thing every day at the same hour” (Wharton 87) because the prudent, rich, society that she lived in “liked an even temperature” (Wharton 87). This allowed her no room to be an individual or to make her own decisions which is why she detested that lifestyle so much. Gannet’s idea of marrying Lydia astounded her because she thought that a marriage was no “needed to consecrate our[their] love for each other” (Wharton 95).

    Lydia argues that being married automatically forces you to conform to that society. Even though Lydia did disagree with that statement, when being surrounded by stereotypical married couples at the Hotel Bellosguardo, she herself does the exact thing that she protests against: conforming to the society around her and pretending to be Mrs. Gannet. When Mrs. Cope, a person who was ostracized by society because she actually displayed her thoughts of not wanting to conform to society, wants to talk about marriage and divorce with Lydia, Lydia “certainly did not want to speak
    to Mrs. Linton[Mrs. Cope]” (Wharton 107), because she would be faced with the reality of her situation. One reason why Lydia may have had so much resentment for Mrs. Cope is because she may have been jealous at the fact that Mrs. Cope had the strength to not conform with society.

    Eventually for Lydia, conforming to society was much easier than fighting for individuality. By the end of the story, when Lydia struggles to decide whether she wants to stay or leave Mr. Gannet, she chooses marrying Gannet which ultimately shows that she has given up on the thought of individuality and ends up conforming with society.

    1. Jenna, you assume that "she chooses marrying Gannet which ultimately shows that she has given up on the thought of individuality and ends up conforming with society."

      Lydia does NOT ends up giving in to contemporary social attitudes towards her adulterous relationship in relation to women, sexuality and marriage. if the end of the short story were explicit about them getting married and she confessing that marriage was for her anyway, then it would be giving up… cheer

  3. The author Edith Wharton wrote the story Souls Belated in my opinion questioning the social pressures that both men and women faced in a wealthy society of 1899. Lydia is a woman who stands by the principles she believes in until they no longer benefit her. Lydia feels that marriages confines her as a human being and does not want to burden or put “Gannet in the trammels of her dependence…taking possession of his future” (Wharton 90) .

    Not only are social pressures put on Lydia and her decisions but they are also placed on Gannet to “do the descent thing” because he “owed her something” (Wharton89). Lydia depends on the foundation of her beliefs to keep her from conforming to the usual actions, and ideals of society, but when she desires the approval of the women at the hotel Lydia completely withdraws her principles for the social advantages that are a part of being a married woman. Lydia believes herself to be a certain way but acts in a completely different way showing that the “direction of the road” she thought she was on had changed.

  4. Souls Belated deals with society’s predetermined definition of marriage as a sacred bond that also provides a level of security. This bond, however, is suppressing like a literal bond because it does not permit the freedom for the “complexity of human motives” (Wharton 97). Lydia and Gannett come into conflict with society as they struggle to develop their own definition of marriage through their understanding that “no ceremony is needed to consecrate our love for each other” (Wharton 95) just as a signed certificate cannot reveal their love. The main characters’ journey to define their relationship is strained under the pressure to elapse back into the tempting lifestyle of a traditional marriage with the combined “social advantages” (Wharton 97).

    Although they do not want to live a life of “deception” (Wharton 122), faking their acceptance of a code of a society that they do not believe in, they also do not want to become an outcast, in the example of Mrs. Cope who is isolated and ignored. Wharton delves into the difficulty of choosing freedom over advantages that are noticeably shown by how Lydia moves “waveringly” (Wharton 128) between her choices, but ultimately chooses the uncomplicated conformity of traditional marriage.

    1. Mary,

      You are assuming that her stance is that there are boundaries that women should not cross. Actually, her decision of cuckolding her husband or being adulterous to him, finding a lover who understands her, the kind of man that also fights for women’s self-determination, and (maybe) not getting married again, represents her feminist stance, not that she softens that stance; her reluctance of not getting married, as she explains during the short story, is a protest against inequality that marriage provides or represents.


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