If we were to analyse the last two pages of chapter 26 of The Custom of the Country, what are the themes, literary devices, and stylistic contrasts?

The themes of the last pages of chapter 26 of The Custom of the Country are American attitudes toward Europe and the differences between the generations. Literary devices used include metaphor, simile, and hyperbole. There is a stylistic contrast between the third-person narration and Mr. Spragg’s speech.

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At the end of chapter 26 of The Custom of the Country, the Spraggs go to Europe. Page numbers vary by edition. The text discussed here pertains to their vacation, beginning with “After a moment of half-bewildered resistance ...”

A prominent theme of these pages is American attitudes of...

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At the end of chapter 26 of The Custom of the Country, the Spraggs go to Europe. Page numbers vary by edition. The text discussed here pertains to their vacation, beginning with “After a moment of half-bewildered resistance ...”

A prominent theme of these pages is American attitudes of superiority toward Europe, as exemplified by Mr. Spragg’s disdain for almost everything he encounters. This theme is borne out in Mr. Spragg’s observations about the hotels and cold-storage.

He considered them [European hotels] manifestly inferior to those at home …. He regarded the non-existence of the cold-storage system as one more proof of European inferiority.

A related theme is the difference between generations of American people, as Undine’s attitudes differ from those of her parents. She strongly “disliked sightseeing” but accompanied her curious father and frightened mother. The narrator even calls the connection between the family members an “unnatural association.”

The literary devices that author Edith Wharton uses include metaphor, simile, and hyperbole.

A metaphor is a direct comparison of unlike things for effect. Metaphors include “the task she had undertaken in uprooting them,” where “uprooting” means the parents’ leaving their accustomed environment. Mr. Spragg is “haunted by a statistical curiosity,” making his strong interest seem supernaturally based.

A simile is a comparison of unlike things for effect using like or as. Mr. Spragg uses a simile to convey his wonder at the tremendous number of travelers, which he says are “as thick as mosquitoes.”

Hyperbole is extreme exaggeration for effect. This appears in Undine’s impression of the length of her parents’ stay, which “seemed to his daughter an endless length of days.”

The stylistic contrast is achieved through narration and speech. Most of the text appears as narrative in third-person point of view. The omniscient narrator describes the family’s activities as well as provides insights into the varying thoughts of Undine, her father, and her mother. This elegantly styled prose is starkly contrasted to Mr. Spragg’s speech. His use of informal vernacular and grammatical errors or idiosyncrasies marks him as an undereducated or lower-class American.

It ain’t that they’re any great shakes in themselves…. See here, Undie, I got to go back….

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