The Secret Life of Edith Wharton is a companion historical documentary that accompanies Chapter 16:Tales of Innocence in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. It appears on Disc 1 of Volume 3. It has a run-time of 30 minutes, 35 seconds.
In 1905, all of New York was riveted by the story of Lily Bart, a stunning young woman hoping to claim her place in society through marriage to a wealthy man. As her prospects for marriage unraveled, Lily's life spiraled downward. No longer the toast of New York society, she ended up in a rooming house, alone and penniless. After drinking an overdose of sleeping medication, she died. This tragic figure whose story so captivated New York was not real. She was a character in the novel The House of Mirth. The writer who exposed the dark side of High Society was herself a member of it; Edith Wharton was in a unique position to chronicle -- and critique the upper class. She did -- mercilessly -- and her literary success came at a price.
The documentary begins with discussing the impact of the serialized publication of The House of Mirth in 1905, which was Edith Wharton's first major literary success. It then backtracks to discuss Edith Jones' early life, where though a young woman of high society in the 1870s, she preferred to write. After a called off engagement, she later married Teddy Wharton. In 1905, she published The House of Mirth about a high society woman who eventually dies penniless and alone after failing to marry. As her marriage deteriorated and eventually ended in divorce in 1913, she wrote Ethan Frome, about a rural man who is trapped in a marriage but in love with his wife's cousin and caretaker. She moved to France, and had an affair with journalist Morton Fullerton that lasted several years. During World War I, she wrote many pieces to encourage American participation in the war and was awarded the Legion of Honor for her work for refugees and opening hospitals. In 1920, she wrote The Age of Innocence, another work critiquing New York high society and people in love trapped by the rules of society. For this novel, Wharton was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1921, becoming the first woman to win for literature. Wharton continued writing until her death in 1937.
Produced and Written by Betsy Bayha.
Interviews include several Wharton scholars and biographers.