Master of Arts (MA)
First Committee Member
Number of Pages
Nineteenth century anthropologists had identified the development of incest taboos as the dividing line between savage and civilized human beings. Sigmund Freud expanded on these early anthropological notions of incest in identifying incestuous desire at the heart of human sexuality; In The Reef and Summer, Wharton toys with these scientific ideas about incest; the radically different way that Summer incorporates incestuous tension echoes Freud's more complex assumptions. In The Reef, Anna Leath upholds social order by rejecting her own sexuality. In refusing to marry Darrow, she takes a stand against the destabilizing forces of incestuous longing but loses her own chance at sexual fulfillment. In Summer, Charity Royall's decision to marry her foster father allows her to create a stable social environment for her child and to participate in a potentially fulfilling adult relationship. Incest can be savage, as it is on the Mountain; it can also be the beginning of sexual maturity. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.).
Consideration; Edith Wharton; Incestuous; Theme
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
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McBride, Laura Kathleen, "Incestuous Wharton: A consideration of the theme" (1992). UNLV Retrospective Theses & Dissertations. 177.