Whar ton's Short Fiction of War:
The Politics of [Coming Home]
On the afternoon of August 1, 1914, mobilization notices were posted in France, and la belle époque began to give way to the ravages of World War I. Living in Paris throughout the conflict, Edith Wharton observed the war's effects on the home front. She often kept a grueling schedule: writing in the mornings and administering her myriad civilian philanthropies for the remainder of the day. She published extensively about wartime life, including two books of nonfiction about France (Fighting France in 1915 and French Ways and Their Meaning in 1919), three short stories (]Coming Home] in 1915, [The Refugees] in 1919, and [Writing a War Story] in 1919), and two novels (The Marne in 1918 and A Son at the Front in 1923). l The interrelationship between home and warfare informs all of these texts, yet only in her short stories does Wharton focus on women's status and experiences, specifically exploring the gender politics of wartime.2 While only the first story explicitly describes a homecoming, the other stories depict women who have the opportunity to [come home] to their dreams. All of the tales, however, illuminate the bittersweet paradox underlying each situation while making a case for women's contributions to the war. Wharton elucidates the home front's contribution to the war effort and the ironic realities of what she termed the [strange war-world of the rear] (Backward Glance 369).
In 1912, after a half-dozen years of migrating between America and Paris, Wharton made her home in the French capital, becoming a fixture in Parisian salon life. From the turn of the century until 1914, France enjoyed a period of remarkable stability during which the arts flourished. As R. WB. Lewis notes, la belle époque provided Wharton [a perfect combination of privacy and easy access to the social and intellectual life] (176). While she was establishing herself