West twenty-third Street

Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.
DATE:ca. 1898
Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street. On the left is the 5th Avenue Hotel. Pedestrians, including several well-dressed women, walk on the sidewalk. In the background is a sidewalk clock.

Wharton has the capacity to take a person on a voyage and make it your own.  Wharton’s graphic detail makes you put yourself in the shoes of the character, Adeline Tintner states ” Her new genre depends on the “disengagement” of crucial situations from the novel’s grabbag of detail-each item so arranged as to convey the essence of the situation through a concrete symbol (77).” Wharton explains the lives of Hubert Wesson’s ancestors, her characteristic of Hubert’s Grandfather building the house that they still lived in on the lower West Side of Manhattan.  Wharton explains how people looked down on folks that lived there using the term “perils” to describe the danger one feared when they first settled there.  Webster’s dictionary defines perils as, exposure to the risk of being injured, destroyed, or lost. Now one looks back at those people and laugh at their thoughts according to Wharton, however, people would kill to be a part of that neighborhood and the growth thereof.

Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street.
5th Ave. at 23rd Street shows a sidewalk crowded with pedestrians. Most of the men and women are well dressed. Carriages drive on the street.

Wharton’s “disengagement” occurred within the first two pages of the novella, as Lizzie was just seen coming out of the Fifth Avenue hotel with Henry, Wharton then takes the novella on a turn to give background on her choice of a narrator.  At the same time, Wharton wants her readers to know that the lens you are looking through while reading is that of a twelve-year-old boy.  Wharton shows her fading from one extreme, the affair, to then calming her reader about the history of Hubert Wesson family.

The novella was made of both New money and Old money, if you had money then you were to the North, Wharton states, “Aristocracy to the south and Money to the north ( 238.)”  Wharton shows the differences between the two all while giving history of the narrator by illustrating Hubert was from old money, for one of the reasons Lizzie’s affair was kept a secret from Charles. No one from old money was to speak of such things as an affair, such as Lizzie, it is believed that the only reason Lizzie’s affair was not made public, was due to Charles sickness.  Although the case, Lizzie would not have had the affair if Charles was of good health, as he could provide for her as he always wanted too, and to his standards.


Tintner, Adeline R. “The Narrative Structure of ‘Old New York’: Text and Pictures in Edith Wharton’s Quartet of Linked Short Stories.” The Journal of Narrative Technique, vol. 17, no. 1, 1987, pp. 76–82., www.jstor.org/stable/30225169.