Short Story #160: Editha by William Dean Howells

Title:  Editha

Author:  William Dean Howells


Book cover: he Bedside Book of Famous American Short Stories edited by Angus Burrell and Bennett A. CerfEditha loves her fiance, George, though she admits she would have loved to have him prove her love to her by some accomplishment.  When George comes for a visit, announcing that war has been declared, Editha becomes excite at the prospect of it.  She pushes George into signing up, making claims that he needs to love his country as much as his future wife.  George's love for Edith leads him to accept this role though it's clear his instinct is to stay clear of the war.  He signs up to go off to war and event is elected captain of the soldiers leaving from his town.  Before he goes off to war, Editha gives him a note that he must read at a later date.  The note says that she cannot love him unless he loves his country just as much if not more.  She sends him off with this but tells him not to open it until later.  Soon news comes of the first battle that George is in and confirmation that George has died.  Editha is devastated but after recovering for a while she goes out to George's mother.  She promised George to go meet her and take care of her in his absence.  When she visits, George's mother shows anger and resentment towards Editha for sending him off to war so carelessly, pointing out that either George was going to be killed or some other woman's son would be killed but it all amounted to the same.  Editha returns home and when relaying the story to a friend, her friend calls George's mother vulgar and horrible.  Edtha agrees and the story ends indicating that she is feeling better about things.  


It's always curious to see past works that are critical of war.  Here is a story from over 100 years, remarking about its meaninglessness and it could clearly be as easily written today.  I also like how Howells explores the drive of a young woman to push a man to "be a man" in contrast to a mother who thinks more practical and realistic about these things (considering that the young woman is attempting to ultimately become a mother).  

Short Story #160 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  6/8/2014
Source:  The Bedside Book of Famous American Short Stories edited by Angus Burrell and Bennett A. Cerf.  Random House, 1936.  The story can also be found on this website

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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