Edith Wharton was born into an affluent American family in 1862 and lived the majority of her life in New York City’s high society. Despite being constrained by the social expectations circumscribed by her affluence, Wharton was a keen, explorative woman and a prolific writer. Wharton is best known for her novel The Age of Innocence (1920), for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1921, and novella Ethan Frome (1911). Wharton, however, wrote many short stories as well. Her book Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910) is a collection of several short stories including “Afterward,” a ghost story about a haunted house told in five parts. “Afterward” touches upon gothic stereotypes, constraints placed upon women, and the greed and conflict that inevitably come with wealth.

Plot Summary

Part 1

The story begins with an American couple, Ned and Mary Boyne, and their friend Alida Stair. Ned recently benefited from a business deal with the Blue Star Mine, which brought the Boynes into money. Now, Ned and Mary are looking for a romantic countryside home in England in which to retire. Over tea with Alida at her home in Pangbourne, England, they discuss which home would be best to buy. Ned and Mary are very focused on the idea of living in the country. The couple discard many sensible houses that Alida suggests. Finally, she mentions a house called Lyng in Dorsetshire. For Ned and Mary, Dorsetshire sounds like the ideal place for a romantic yet archaic country home. In fact, they expect and want the home to be uncomfortable, joking that a house in the countryside must have a ghost for it to be worth purchasing. Alida tells them that there is a ghost at Lyng, but that they wouldn’t know until “long, long afterward.”

After moving into the Lyng house, the couple notices nothing in particular and soon forgets the discussion over the ghost. Two months...

(The entire section is 1,252 words.)