Edith Wharton was keenly aware of how ties to places as well as people shape identity. A witness to the chaos generated by World War I, she perceived how the loss of security, the loss of a home, affected an individual's sense of self and expectations for the future. Published while Edith Wharton was actively engaged in relief work during World War I, Summer (1917) presents a multifaceted search for identity and purpose, in some ways a search for self and home. Wharton claimed that she wrote the novel “in fits and starts” because of her war work (Letters 397), yet she presents a carefully constructed narrative that reveals her continuing attention to detail.
In the novel, Wharton returns to the “decaying rural existence” she had first explored in Ethan Frome, a. world defined by limited options and frustrated hopes (A Backward Glance 898). Within this environment, Wharton traces the experiences of Charity Royall, who evolves from a rebellious adolescent to a woman faced with the difficult choices that impending motherhood thrusts upon her. Similar to other Wharton protagonists, Charity must wrestle with the codes and values of her community, including those that define woman's place and those that define Charity as an outsider. In her youthful exuberance, Charity believes that she can defy the codes of her world and be the independent agent of her own destiny. Wharton, however, uses Char-