Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Edith’s Diary covers a twenty-year span (1955-1975) in the life of a typical American family as it discovers (as Edith writes in her diary) that the “difference between dream and reality is the true hell.” The novel opens with the Howland family in search of an idyllic existence. Brett and Edith decide to move from New York City to a small town in Pennsylvania in order to provide Cliffie, their emotionally disturbed son, with an environment more conducive to a healthy childhood. In addition, Brett and Edith plan to start a small liberal newspaper, the Brunswick Corner Bugle, in the tradition of Thomas Paine’s journalism. Edith decides to name the new house “Peace” and writes about the move and its consequences in her diary.

Edith’s diary, as the novel’s title suggests, serves as the governing metaphor of the work as it chronicles both the dream and the reality of her life. Rather than the first-person narrative that a diary suggests, however, the novel is told primarily through Edith’s and Cliffie’s points of view. The family’s idyllic dream begins to crumble soon after the move when Cliffie is accused of stealing a football from school. In addition, Brett’s invalid uncle George intrudes when he comes to live with the Howlands and becomes a growing burden as he becomes increasingly enfeebled. Not long after the move, the Brunswick Corner Bugle fails for lack of support. When Cliffie is nineteen, he is...

(The entire section is 566 words.)