By Edith Wharton
Encouraged by means of a tender guy Edith Wharton met in the course of her war relief paintings in France, A Son on the Front(1923) opens in Paris on July 30, 1914, as Europe totters on the point of warfare.
Expatriate American painter John Campton, whose in simple terms son George, having been born in Paris, needs to record for accountability within the French army, struggles to maintain his son clear of front while grappling with the ethical implications of his actions. A poignant meditation on paintings and ownership, fidelity and responsibility, A Son on the Front is Wharton’s indelible tackle the struggle novel.
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Extra resources for A Son at the Front (Library of America)
Augustine, that man's problem stems from the fact that he is both free and finite and that within himself he can find no way of reconciling the two. But Niebuhr departed rather dramatically from most Augustinian interpretations of the human predicament by arguing that man's finitude is not the cause of his sin but simply its occasion. Faced with a paradox he can in no way overcome on his own, man is placed in a state of anxiety he can neither endure nor relieve. It is this anxiety common to the experience of all men and women, Niebuhr asserted, that is the cause of human waywardness, because it tempts the individual either to seek a basis of security within himself, which leads to the sin of pride, or to seek a basis of security in some mutable good, some vitality of Nature, which leads to the sin of sensuality.
Criticism operating in this fashion usually proceeds in any one of four ways: either by interpreting individual works, writers, genres, or traditions in terms of some theological concept or doctrine (say, the doctrine of Providence in Samson Agonistes, or Kierkegaard's notion of "the teleological suspension of the ethical" as a key to the moral dialectic in Dostoevsky); or by interpreting them in terms of 36 THE INTERPRETATION OF OTHERNESS some theologian or theological system (the "Augustinian strain of piety" in New England colonial literature, or Calvinistic echoes in the fiction of Herman Melville); or by interpreting them in terms of some more or less discrete religious movement (New England Transcendentalism in the work of Henry David Thoreau, Ignatian traditions of spiritual meditation in the poetry of the English metaphysicals); or by interpreting them in terms of some particular theological issue or religious archetype (the nature of evil in Othello, the relation between doubt and belief in the poetry of T.
To employ M. H. Abrams's terms in Natural Supernaturalism (1971), it can clarify the lines of demarcation between the "traditional" and the "revolutionary" in matters of faith, and by the sharpness of its distinctions it can enliven the discussion between believers and non-believers. At its worst, however, the apodictic orientation can become crippling to the very interests of discrimination itself, as it does in Randall Stewart's American Literature and Christian Doctrine (1952). The chief problem with Stewart's book is not the high- 22 THE INTERPRETATION OF OTHERNESS handed way he applies Christian doctrine as an evaluative standard to American literature but the simplistic manner in which he proceeds to limit the whole mosaic of Christian belief to the dogma of original sin and then dispenses censure or praise in terms of an individual writer's presumed acceptance of this, as it happens, unBiblical nostrum.