For this episode, we discussed Edith Wharton's novel The Custom of the Country, which was published in 1913. It's a satirical novel about a very American type of ambition. At the novel's center is the shockingly narcissistic anti-hero Undine Spragg, a young woman from the midwest who comes to New York to do some major social climbing and leaves a trail of wreckage on her way up. While not as well known as her other two major novels, The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, the novel has grown in renown recently as it has become strangely relevant in an age of social media. Despite her beautiful style, we find Wharton's view of human nature to be surprisingly dark and deterministic. How did Undine become such a monster? What are we supposed to do about such a person? What does she say about the American character?
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Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.