In Edith Wharton’s 1917 novel Summer the relationship between the heroine, Charity Royall, and her lover, Lucius Harney, depicts a kind of feminine sexual awakening that is profoundly original in literature. As Cynthia Griffin Wolff notes in her introduction to the book, “Summer is not the first Bildungsroman to focus on this awakening to maturity as it occurs in a woman’s life; however, it is the first to deal explicitly with sexual passion as an essential component of that process” (x). The precise way in which this sexual relationship is entered into by...
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