The Disillusion of Marriage: The Failing Quest for Happiness in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, Summer, and The Custom of the Country
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Within most narratives involving women, they start with the pursuit of marriage and end with a happily married woman. Within her novels, Edith Wharton works to demonstrate the flaws of this understanding and present a question on the possibility of female happiness. By specifically looking at The House of Mirth, Summer, and The Custom of the Country, exposing Wharton’s stark critique of the nature of women’s involvement within a patriarchal social structure allows us to understand the damaging effects of female gender expectations. Marriage and motherhood become the expected paths for women and consequently, they are punished when they go outside of these expectations. By then placing the possibility for happiness at the center, marriage becomes simply a faulty tool used in order to achieve happiness. Marriage, in other words, is the means to an end and not the end itself.