Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Classics Challenge Prompt - October

This month's prompt for A Classics Challenge is...

Chapter Musings - Jot down some notes from a chapter you've just read or one that struck you the most. It can be as simple as a few words you've learnt, some quotes, a summary, or your thoughts and impressions.

I've just finished The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton which is the last of the original list of seven books I chose for this challenge. So, officially I've now completed the challenge although I'll continue to do the prompts.

My musings are on Chapter 6.

"The afternoon was perfect. A deeper stillness possessed the air, and the glitter of the American autumn was tempered by a haze which diffused the brightness without dulling it.

In the woody hollows of the park there was already a faint chill; but as the ground rose the air grew lighter, and ascending the long slopes beyond the high-road, Lily and her companion reached a zone of lingering summer. The path wound across a meadow with scattered trees; then it dipped into a lane plumed with asters and purpling sprays of bramble, whence, through the light quiver of ash-leaves, the country unrolled itself in pastoral distances."

The quote is part of a longer passage of beautiful imagery of the natural landscape and a season that is filled with symbolism and the foreshadowing of Lily's future.

I wondered at Edith Wharton's use of Autumn instead of Fall but discovered she spent much of her childhood in Europe which explains it.

Lily ' had no real intimacy with nature' but today it suits her mood and as she and Lawrence walk to the top of a hill she feels a lightness and sense of peace she's not accustomed to.

A breath of fresh air for the reader, too........Lily's behaviour in the previous chapter has been appalling as she misrepresents herself and lies outrageously in order to capture Percy Gryce.

Lily and Lawrence sit and talk.... of marriage and personal times the sharp jabs and defensive moves make it feel like a fencing match with neither side willing to give up their ground. And then a fleeting moment but....

" Suddenly they heard a remote sound, like the hum of a giant of a giant insect, and following the high-road, which wound whiter through the surrounding twilight, a black object rushed across their vision."

Today we wouldn't even be aware of the traffic noise but in 1905 a private motorcar was still rare and considered very much a luxury, a rich man's toy with little practical use. This passage is another example of Edith Wharton's brilliant use of symbolism.

" Let us go down! " she murmured.

Very sad but as inevitable as the autumn leaf falling to the ground.


  1. Where I live now, in Texas, we don't really get a fall - reading the parts you quoted makes me miss autumn in the north!

    I haven't read all seven of my books, to my shame - I keep posting about different books, but at least they're classics!

    1. I think doing the prompts is more important than sticking to a list. :-)

  2. I love the Autumn and the quote you shared. Maybe Wharton used the term 'autumn' instead of fall because 'American autumn' sounds more poetic? ;)

    1. There's a thought - maybe she did! I wonder why Americans changed it in the first place?

  3. A beautiful description of the autumn (although I have never experienced one, but perhaps that made it more beautiful to me..).
    And I like how Wharton described motorcar as 'a hum of a giant insect' ;)

    1. I liked that description too. Something we are so used to but very noticeable in that era. Autumn is beautiful - I can't imagine not experiencing it each year.