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Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature


Ozzie Mayers, English


The societal standard for feminine beauty exerts a very strong influence on the minds and motivations of women. In no society was this truer than during the Victorian Era. Edith Wharton, as a product of this society, reacted strongly to the beauty standard of her day and what it prescribed for the proper activities and values for women. In many ways she was able to separate herself from the constrictive nature of her society and was able to criticize it. In other ways, she remained held fast to the expected values, and continued to hold beauty in high esteem. In my work, I analyze the influence her culture's beauty codes had on Edith Wharton -- as a woman and as a novelist -- and thus how her feelings on the subject influenced her presentation of feminine beauty through the heroines of her novels, particularly within The House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence.