Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Souls Belated” by Edith Wharton that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Souls Belated” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Souls Belated” by Edith Wharton in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Souls Belated” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints about how to use PaperStarter.com in the brief User's Guide…you'll be glad you did.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Marriage in Souls Belated
Perhaps the biggest theme in Souls Belated is the issue of marriage and its dissolution. Written during a time when divorce was far less common and accepted than it is today, marriage was a covenant that was viewed as sacred by many of Lydia’s contemporaries. By choosing to shun the institution of marriage and by refusing to marry Gannett, Lydia is making a strong commentary on the very idea of marriage. Lydia does not want to be with Gannett because she is forced to do so by a piece of paper and a blessing from a priest, but rather because she chooses to do so everyday. In what ways do her ideas differ from those of the women around her? How is her marriage to Tillotson different than her relationship with Gannett?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Isolation in Souls Belated
While everyone in Souls Belated is paired with a significant other whom they find to be their soul mate, it seems as if all the characters are incredibly alone. The opening scene, where Gannett and Lydia are in the train, they are portrayed as having something far greater than a seat cushion separating them. Although the physical distance between the characters is minimal, the emotional and spiritual difference is vast. Lydia even says that they have been at the villa for three months, but Gannett and herself have not talked about the ever growing chasm in their relationship. How is this isolation portrayed through imagery throughout the text? What is the point of showing these characters as lonely? Is Wharton perhaps making the statement that love is not enough?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Lydia and Rebellion in Souls Belated
In Edith Wharton’s Souls Belated, the main character Lydia sees herself as rebelling against the suffocating nature of her society. She leaves a marriage that she feels is merely for show, for a writer who can show her the world, and with whom she can share her thoughts. Lydia refuses to marry Gannett, because she believes that if he marries her now, it will be because he feels as if he has to, and that their marriage will be nothing more than a sham. In her final defiant act in “Souls Belated”, Lydia tells Gannett that the only way they can live and not be liars is if she leaves him. She goes off towards the loading docks to catch a boat, but at the end, turns away. She admits to herself and to Gannett that she has become everything that she despised before. Was Lydia’s rebellion ever an actual rebellion, or was it just a façade that she put up to justify her inner beliefs and desires? What is EdithWharton saying about social convention in “Souls Belated” and those who try to break it?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Relationships Among Women in Souls Belated
In the beginning of Edith Wharton’s Souls Belated, the women seem very different. Lydia is determined not to live life by the conventions that she feels have been thrust upon her, and therefore refuses to marry Gannett. Lady Susan makes up her own rules, and decides who will and will not be welcomed in the villa, while the rest of the ladies living there obey her wishes. Mrs. Cope was similar to Lydia, in that she was also shunning convention by getting a divorce, but she was far more worried about her relationship with Trevenna than Lydia was in regards to Gannett. In which ways is Mrs. Cope a foil to Lydia? How do the relationships between the women vary?
This list of important quotations from “Souls Belated” by Edith Wharton will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Wharton's “Souls Belated” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs in this short story than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text by Edith Wharton they are referring to.
“Nothing mattered, in those first days of supreme deliverance, but the fact that she was free; and not so much (she had begun to be aware) that freedom had released her from Tillotson as that it had given her to Gannett” (1674)
“Prudent people liked an even temperature; and to do anything unexpected was as foolish as going out in the rain.” (1674)
“If they are right—if marriage is sacred in itself and the individual must always be sacrificed to the family, then there can be no real marriage between us, since our—our being together is a protest against the sacrifice of the individual to the family.” (1678)
“But of course, I don’t deny that the stand Lady Susan takes is not always easy to live up to—for the rest of us, I mean.” (1681)
“His sudden impulse of activity so exactly coincided with her own wish to withdraw, for a time, from the range of his observation, that she wondered if he too were not seeking sanctuary from intolerable problems.” (1680)
“Oh, I’m not spiteful by nature, my dear; but you’re a little more than flesh and blood can stand! It’s impossible, is it? Let you go, indeed! You’re too good to be mixed up in my affairs, are you? Why, you little fool, the first day I laid eyes on you I saw that you and I were both in the same box—that’s the reason I spoke to you.” (1684-1685)
“Half-way down the short incline to the deck, she stopped again: then she turned and ran back to the land. The gang-plank was drawn in, the bell ceased to ring, and the boat backed out into the lake. Lydia, with slow steps, was walking toward the garden…” (1691)
“He thought of her as walking barefooted through a stony waste. No one would understand her—no one would pity her—and he, who did both, was powerless to come to her aid.” (1691)
“Do you know, I began to see what marriage is for. It’s to keep people away from each other. Sometimes I think that two people who love each other can be saved from madness only by the things that come between them—children, duties, visits, bores, relations—the things that protect married people from each other. We’ve been too close together—that has been our sin. We’ve seen the nakedness of each other’s souls.” (1688)
Source : Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter 6 ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2003