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The Touchstone By Edith Wharton

“The Touchstone” is a novel written by Edith Wharton, published in 1900.

It is a compelling story about the limitations of money and the power of love, set in the late 19th century New York society.

The novel centers around the characters of Stephen Glennard and Alice Hubert. Stephen is a struggling writer, whose early promise has failed to materialize into success. In an effort to secure his financial future, Stephen sells a collection of love letters written by a now-deceased woman named Margaret Aubyn. The letters were written to him when they were both young and in love, but Stephen, in need of money, betrayed Margaret’s trust and sold them to a publisher.

The publication of the letters is a huge success, and Stephen becomes rich and famous. However, his newfound wealth and success do not bring him happiness, and he begins to regret his decision. He becomes haunted by guilt and the memory of Margaret, who he feels he has wronged.

Stephen meets Alice, a beautiful and intelligent woman, and they fall in love. However, Stephen’s guilt and shame over his past actions threaten to destroy their relationship. He fears that if Alice were to learn the truth about the letters, she would reject him.

The novel explores the theme of the corrupting influence of money and the power of love to transcend it. Wharton portrays the New York society of the time as obsessed with wealth and status, and Stephen’s success is seen as a measure of his worth. However, as he learns, money cannot buy happiness or love.

Wharton also explores the theme of trust and betrayal. Stephen’s decision to sell the letters is a betrayal of Margaret’s trust and love, and he is haunted by the memory of what he has done. He is also afraid of betraying Alice’s trust by revealing his past, and this fear threatens to destroy their relationship.

Another theme of the novel is the role of women in society. Margaret Aubyn is portrayed as a talented writer and artist, but her work is undervalued because she is a woman. Alice is also a talented writer, but she is expected to give up her career when she marries. Wharton portrays the struggles of women in a society that does not value their contributions.

“The Touchstone” is a beautifully written novel that explores the complexities of human relationships and the power of love to overcome even the most difficult of obstacles. Wharton’s prose is elegant and nuanced, and she captures the atmosphere and mores of late 19th century New York society with great skill. The novel is a poignant reminder that money and success are not the keys to happiness, and that true happiness can only be found through love and trust.

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