Thursday, April 22, 2010

Anti-Semitism in The House of Mirth

I wrote my paper on anti-Semitism in The House of Mirth. Through my research, I descovered that anti-Semitism was very common among authors in Edith Wharton’s same social class. Henry James, for example, expresses anti-Semitical views in several of his novels as well as through letters to Edith wharton. F. Scott Fitzgerald describes a Jewish character in The Great Gatsby to have physical qualities and characteristics that are common stereotypes for the Jewish race. Edith Wharton wrote “it’s enough to make this reader happy to have met your perfect Jew” when she read Fitzgerald’s book showing that she, herself, shares these anti-Semitical views (Goldman, 25). I wrote about the influences behind Edith wharton’s character, Rosedale, including the writers listed above. She was raised in a time where anit-Semitism was very common among people in her social circle. This is largly because of the number of Jewish immigrants that made New York their home in th elate 19th century. Fear began to arise that the Jewish race was takingover the nation. Henry James called it the “Hebrew conquest of New York” and many saw the large number of Jews who chose to become landlords as a threat (Cheyette, 6). Journalist Burton J. Hendrick claimed that “Jews are rapidly acquiring a monopoly of the land… The chances are, if you wish to lease an apartment in any part of New York today, you will pay your rent to a Jewish landlord. There is not the slightest doubt that in a few years the Jews will own the larger part of Manhattan Islands- the richest parcel of real estate in the world" (Goldsmith, 378). This fear lead to many racial steareotypes and anti-Semitical views. These views began to arise in fiction literature such as Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. Although she uses many stereotypes to describe Rosedale in her novel, Edith Wharton was merely a product of her time and should not be judged for her racism against the Jewish race.

1 comment:

  1. The issue of Wharton's anti-Semitism is complex, Amanda, and you've given a good overview of it here.