TitleThe delusion of the nostalgia cure in Ethan Frome and The return of the soldier
NameHunter, Jennifer (author), Singley, Carol (chair), Barbarese, Joseph T (co-chair), Rutgers University, Camden Graduate School,
Nostalgia in literature,
Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937.--Ethan frome,
West, Rebecca, 1892-1983.--Return of the soldier
DescriptionEthan Frome (1911) by Edith Wharton and The Return of the Soldier (1918) by Rebecca West describe a psychological journey and also document a cultural moment. Written at the genesis of modernism, they express the anxiety about fragmentation of society that began with the industrial revolution and climaxes with World War I. In these texts this fragmentation is represented through suppressed desire, broken masculinity, and wasted potential. To cope with this cumulative trauma the primary male characters, Ethan Frome and Chris Baldry, use nostalgia, a sentimental and romantic longing for a past that did not exist, to recreate the circumstances of their youth. Existing in the past, however, has dire consequences, for as Ethan and Chris attempt to recreate the circumstances of their youth, they also, as Freud theorizes, repeat, relearn, and relive their trauma. In this way, nostalgia is not only inauthentic, but also damaging. Their respective lovers, Mattie and Margaret, who at first appear to be saviors in Ethan and Chris’s nostalgic delusions by activating their life instinct, actually become angels of death, driving them toward a bleak future and their inevitable demise. Ethan and Chris are pawns by which Wharton and West demonstrate the illusion of romanticism and its failure to act as cure. Nostalgia is only a temporary palliative, a placebo, masking reality.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Jennifer A. Hunter
CollectionCamden Graduate School Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.