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Edith Wharton tours the length of the front in World War I and describes in vivid detail the trenches, hospitals, and villages, Paris' valiant struggles to preserve her values, and the esprit de corps of the gallant French.
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The Changes Wrought by War
Wharton has given us wonderfully evocative descriptions of France in the first year of WWI. She lived in Paris and was able to tour the front from end to end. She described the physical changes wrought by the war, both in the preparation--the layout of the trenches—and the aftermath—the devastation of the battles.
More movingly, however, she also described the moods and spirits of the French people both in the city and the countryside: the disbelief that war would result and the determination to fight when it did, the dedication of the soldiers, the pathos of the peasants in the paths of the armies, the determination of those caring for the wounded and displaced, and the grief and stoicism of the bereaved.
Wharton focused on the feelings of the common people and gave us a telling portrait of a people fighting for their identity—in Wharton’s words, for what makes life worth living—while at the same time describing the stupidity of war.
One surprising note, especially given her own tour of the front, was her stereotypical treatment of women in general.