Short Story #221: The Reckoning by Edith Wharton

Title:  The Reckoning

Author:  Edith Wharton


Image of Edith Wharton - Source:
Julia Westall attends a speech by her husband that she both likes and dislikes.  The premise of the speech--one that he is regularly discussing--explains that in marriage, one must be true to the self and not the marriage vow per se.  That is, marriage should no longer required an unhappy couple to cling together for so long.  Westall herself had confessed this and was part of the reason she married her husband after divorcing her previous husband.  However, her husband's vocalizing it in public while beginning to show eyes at a younger woman continues to irk and worry Julia.  She has several conversations with him but every time she tries to curtail his speaking out on it, he reminds her that this was her idea and why is it now that she would rescind such an idea.  It soon becomes apparent to Julia that her husband is losing interest in her and wishing to pursue the young woman.  The husband admits to this and that he will seek a divorce with her.  She is horror-stricken by the declaration and finds herself at a loss.  She eventually finds herself at the house of her ex-husband and seeks his presence.  During the conversation, she finally comes to an understanding of and full apology for how her actions towards him were much like what has happened to her.  He admits to feeling sorry for her because he does understand and she leaves.  


I'm often fond of the challenging ideas Wharton presents about marriage and divorce.  I was curious about the direction she was taking this at the start as it was a bit vague about the nature of the husband's speech and what was inappropriate about it.  The full circle element of the story is fascinating and I feel like there could be some great ways to juxtapose this tale with her other story, "The Other Two" in the ways in which the individual characters move on from their past marriage but in some profound ways are still inevitably tied to their first partners.  

Short Story #221 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/20/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at 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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