Afterward by Edith Wharton


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A short story classified under the American Gothic genre, the piece depicts an eerie set of events following the distressing occurrences within the Boyne household, as their dream relocation takes a drastic turn. Wharton cleverly weaves together Gothic themes including horror, retribution, and despair to create a dynamic plot which is additionally aided by the use of foreshadowing, an uncanny setting, and the reflective voice of its character. Divided into five parts, Afterward introduces newly rich couple Mary and Ned Boyne, who decide to make their dream move to England after Ned strikes a good business investment. In search of a suitable house they come across the Lyng, which seems to check all the boxes in their list of house necessities, as it is old, remote, and most importantly haunted by a ghost. Subsequently, the Boynes settle in and go about their activities as usual and enjoy the pleasures within the house, while disregarding the possibility of sharing accommodation with a ghost. As time goes by, Mary notices a change in her husband’s attitude, as he becomes more withdrawn and appears to be troubled by something. Despite the apparent change, she chooses to brush off the observation and so remains in her self-inflicted state of obliviousness. However, the couple’s bliss is cut short when Ned goes missing after receiving a visit from an unidentified man, which triggers Mary to dig deep in her husband’s secrets whether she likes it or not. Furthermore, Ned’s disappearance marks the abrupt stop to the anticipated life of leisure, and instead begins an emotional journey, as Mary uncovers an unsettling truth. Nevertheless, Wharton effectively creates a chilly atmosphere, as she combines suspense, foreshadowing, and descriptive imagery to create a novel distinguishable from its Gothic counterparts. Furthermore, the story cautiously encourages readers to pay attention to minor details, because the seemingly irrelevant things may in fact hold the most significance. Certain to enthrall with its uncanny design and realistic plot, the psychological ghost story is sure to send a shiver down one’s spine.

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