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by Edith Wharton
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Wharton’s deepest concern was morality. She wrote about the struggle between the body and the mind, that battlefield from which morality emerges. Central to her work are stifled and illicit passions, manifested in divorce, adultery, incest, and illegitimacy. Her writing was stylistically decorous but socially transgressive: her prose is so elegant that her message comes as a shock, like a sword wrapped in satin.
"Ninety-nine percent of people, and probably a higher percentage of readers, have it in, in general, for characters like this, and feel when they read about people like this, 'Oh, I know how I feel about them, I know what they’re like.' So, I was very much interested in making them hard to pass judgment on, at least until the book was shut, and possibly past that."