Summer (novel)

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AuthorEdith Wharton
PublisherCharles Scribner's Sons
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)

Summer is a novel by Edith Wharton, which was published in 1917 by Charles Scribner's Sons. While most novels by Edith Wharton dealt with New York's upper-class society, this is one of two novels by Wharton that were set in New England. Its themes include social class, the role of women in society, destructive relationships, sexual awakening and the desire of its protagonist, named Charity Royall. The novel was rather controversial for its time and is one of the less famous among her novels because of its subject matter.

Plot summary[edit]

At the start of the novel, young charity Royal looks really bored with her life in the small town of North Dormer. Charity Royall is born to poor parents in the mountains who could not keep her. For time being, she works in a library and is a picture of the town`s learned person, Lawyer Royall, but she still dreams of even a better and more exciting life. Later in life, that exciting life finds her in the form of a visiting architect named Lucius Harney. Her first encounter with the charming young man is at the library. Soon, he finds himself boarding at Mr. Royall`s house when his own living arrangements fall through.

Charity Royall immediately finds herself attracted to Lucius and decides to become Lucius` companion as he explores the town. Mr. Lucius is putting together a book on colonial houses and is using the town`s building in order to do research for the book. Mr. Royall happened to lose his wife some years ago and therefore has designs on Charity for himself and therefore notices two of them growing close and goes with speed to evict Lucius from his house. Through this, he eliminates what he sees as competition. Lucius leaves town and relocates to a nearby village.

Later on, the two visit a town, where they kiss for the first time and Lucius ends up gifting Charity with Brooch present. Before they are finished with their outing, they run into Mr. Royal, who seems really drunk. Mr. Royal verbally attacks Charity, which causes her to feel intense shame and hence falls into Lucius` arms. After the day`s events, charity and Lucius grow even closer and have sex for the first time.[1]

After this, Charity develops fear when she sees Lucius with Annabel Balch a local society girl at a social event. Lucius promises to meet charity at their usual place but when she goes there, she meets Mr. Royall instead who confronts her. Lucius promised on the other hand to marry Charity but he excuses himself to move out of town for a while. Later, a person comes to tell Charity that, Lucius went out of town with Annabel Balch, a local society girl. Charity writes a letter to Lucius in bitterness telling him to marry Annabel. [1]

Immediately after these events, Charity begins feeling sick. Doctor confirms that, she is pregnant. Charity does not have any money to pay for the check up and therefore, she pays doctor with the brooch Lucius gave her. Upon reaching home, she receives a letter from Annabel that confirms that she is going to marry Annabel. This frustrates her until she decides to pack and go look for her long lost mother in the mountains.[2] However, it turns out to be so late because charity`s mother passes away before she could see her.

However, while still staying at the mountains, Charity observes the poverty that has stricken people living around the mountains. From the experience she has in the mountain, she vows she will do everything best to ensure that, her child does not grow in poverty. She therefore returns home, intending to become a prostitute to support her child. However, along the way, she meets again with Mr. Royal. Mr. Royal offers her a ride and decides to marry her. In the end, she writes a letter to Lucius telling her about her marriage and finally returns home to stay with her husband in North Dormer.

Major characters[edit]

  • Charity Royall: She is the major character in the story. A stranger seduces, impregnates and abandons her. in other terms, according to this scenario, dependence can mean security and she therefore ends up marrying for her former guardian.
  • Lawyer Royall: The lawyer`s feelings towards charity have been paternal all along until the death of Lawyer Royall`s wife. After the death of her wife, his heavy drinking helps to tear down the wall securing his growing lust and desire for sexual satisfaction. He keeps his distance away from charity, hires workers to be in the house and assists her to achieve her desire for independence; however, he is very much pained by these experiences. Charity lover abandons her while she is pregnant and in this instance, it is her guardian who comes in to rescue the situation by acting as her security and marrying her while pregnant.
  • Lucius Harney: Lucius is a young New York architect who enters the life of Charity and entices with the promise of been everything to her life. On the other hand, Charity strongly feels attracted to Lucius and envious of him too. Lucius is hence just more than her summer lover. He is also the symbol of everything that Charity ever imagines of for herself.[3]
  • Anabel Balch: Annabel on the other hand is not a symbol of everything that Charity Royall does not have; she is the literal reverse of it.[4] Annabel has been described as a blonde lady, blue-eyed, fashionable, educated wealthy and eventually makes to be Mr. Lucius Harney`s wife.
  • Julia Hawes: The character Julia is described as the oldest sister of Charity`s best friend Ally. Julia also happened to have been a victim of a love affair, that later left her pregnant and abandoned. However, Julia`s case is slightly different since after aborting, she gets into prostitution and has ever since become the persona in the small town. Julia is the cautionary tale which later interferes with Charity`s decision making.[4]


  1. ^ a b Nevius, Blake (1961). Edith Wharton. A Study of Her Fiction. Univ. of California Press. p. 96.
  2. ^ Monteiro, George (2018). "Suicide and the New England Conscience: Notes on Edith Wharton, Robinson, and Frost". American Literary Realism. 50 (2): 145–51.
  3. ^ Beer, Janet (2018). Edith Wharton: Sex, Satire and the Older Woman. Oxford University Press. p. 201.
  4. ^ a b Freitas, Molly (2017). "Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women's Writing". Studies in the Novel. 49 (2): 280–282.

Further reading[edit]

  • Baldwin, Neil, et al. "Criticism and bibliography." The Cambridge Companion to William Carlos Williams 35 (2016): 207.
  • Wharton, Edith. Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort. Edinburgh University Press, 2015.
  • Wharton, Edith. Summer. Oxford University Press, USA, 2015.

External links[edit]