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Xingu 1916   By: (1862-1937)

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Xingu 1916 by Edith Wharton is a riveting novella that delves into the lives of a group of intellectual women living in a small town. Set against the backdrop of early 20th century America, Wharton skillfully navigates through the complexities of social norms and expectations.

The story revolves around a women's club called the Xingu Society, where its members pride themselves on their intellect and cultural pursuits. Through their weekly meetings, the author provides a humorous yet profound exploration of the limitations women faced in society during that time. Wharton masterfully captures the dynamics of these meetings, illustrating the women's constant endeavor to showcase their intellectual prowess by discussing various literary works.

While the protagonist, Mrs. Roby, remains largely a silent observer throughout the novella, her longing to be part of this esteemed group fuels the narrative. Wharton cleverly portrays Mrs. Roby's internal conflict, expertly crafting a character that many readers can relate to. Her yearning to be accepted into the club and her desperation to contribute something meaningful to the discussions makes her character immensely relatable.

One of the strengths of Xingu 1916 lies in Wharton's ability to satirize the pretentiousness within intellectual circles, highlighting the superficiality that often comes with such pursuits. The author employs witty dialogue and well-developed characters to mock the self-importance of the Xingu Society members. The readers are invited to observe the subtle power dynamics within this group and reflect upon the absurdity of social hierarchies based on knowledge and reputation.

Moreover, Wharton tackles broader themes concerning women's struggle for recognition and agency in a patriarchal society. Through the humorous lens of the Xingu Society, she critiques the narrow roles assigned to women during that era. The novella serves as a poignant reminder of the battles fought by women to break free from societal constraints and assert their intellectual independence.

Although Xingu 1916 is a relatively short novel, Wharton's prose is both eloquent and captivating. Her vivid descriptions transport readers to the world of the Xingu Society, while her sharp wit and astute social commentary keep them engaged from beginning to end. Wharton's ability to balance comedy with profound insights into gender roles makes this novella a thought-provoking read.

In conclusion, Xingu 1916 by Edith Wharton is a delightful novella that explores the struggles and triumphs of intellectual women, providing a biting critique of social norms and expectations. Wharton's writing style and well-crafted characters make this a compelling and insightful read. This novella is an excellent choice for those interested in early 20th-century American society, gender dynamics, and the pursuit of intellectual validation.

First Page:


By Edith Wharton

Copyright, 1916, By Charles Scribner's Sons


Mrs. Ballinger is one of the ladies who pursue Culture in bands, as though it were dangerous to meet alone. To this end she had founded the Lunch Club, an association composed of herself and several other indomitable huntresses of erudition. The Lunch Club, after three or four winters of lunching and debate, had acquired such local distinction that the entertainment of distinguished strangers became one of its accepted functions; in recognition of which it duly extended to the celebrated "Osric Dane," on the day of her arrival in Hillbridge, an invitation to be present at the next meeting.

The club was to meet at Mrs. Bellinger's. The other members, behind her back, were of one voice in deploring her unwillingness to cede her rights in favor of Mrs. Plinth, whose house made a more impressive setting for the entertainment of celebrities; while, as Mrs. Leveret observed, there was always the picture gallery to fall back on.

Mrs. Plinth made no secret of sharing this view. She had always regarded it as one of her obligations to entertain the Lunch Club's distinguished guests. Mrs. Plinth was almost as proud of her obligations as she was of her picture gallery; she was in fact fond of implying that the one possession implied the other, and that only a woman of her wealth could afford to live up to a standard as high as that which she had set herself... Continue reading book >>

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