Posted in Short Stories

Edith Wharton’s “The Bolted Door”

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It’s week #6 in my Deal Me In:2014 project which is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis and this week I picked the Queen of Hearts and read Edith Wharton’s short story, “The Bolted Door”.  I picked a couple of Wharton’s stories with somewhat ominous titles as I discovered last year that she wrote a number of ghost stories.  As I’ve found out, though, you can’t always judge a story by the title.

“The Bolted Door” does have a mysterious and suspenseful tone; however, it’s a very clever reversal of a murder mystery.  Instead of the reader being curious about who may have commited a murder, the reader gets to know the murderer right off the bat – Hubert Granice.  Unfortunately, Granice, who wants to get his crime off his chest and make it public knowledge, commited his dastardly deed a little too well.  Try as he might, he cannot get anyone to believe that he murdered his rich elderly cousin for money.  Instead, the greater his attempt at turning himself in, the more he is considered “crazy”.

I laughed out loud when Granice first explained his story to an attorney friend. Apparently, Joseph, Granice’s cousin and victim, had a hobby growing melons (yes, melons).  Joseph took great pride in his gardening and took great pleasure in describing his produce:

‘Look at it, look at it — did you ever see such a beauty? Such firmness — roundness — such delicious smoothness to the touch?’ It was as if he had said ‘she’ instead of ‘it,’ and when he put out his senile hand and touched the melon I positively had to look the other way.

I don’t know, but perhaps such an odd relative may have contributed to Granice’s difficulty in convincing anyone of his guilt.  He continues to give his story to detectives, investigative reporters and finally to the District Attorney.

I’m not sure exactly where the title of the story comes in to play.  Initially, Granice waits for his friend’s knock at the door as he prepares to tell his story; but, the door isn’t necessarily bolted.  The story ends with some potentially bolted doors; however, none are noted explicitly.  If there are any Edith Wharton fans out there who may have an idea of the significance of the bolted door in the story of the same name – feel free to chime in!

11 thoughts on “Edith Wharton’s “The Bolted Door”

    1. This is only the second short story that I’ve read of hers. I wasn’t expecting it to be as funny as it was. The other story I read was called “All Souls'” and it was more of a ghost story. It was well-done but it was no “Hound of the Baskervilles”.

      I know she has several novels such as Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, and House of Mirth. But I haven’t read any of them (yet).

      From what I’ve read and what I’ve read about her, she strikes me as an early 20th century New York version of Jane Austen.

  1. Hi Dale,
    Sounds like Mr. Granice’s motives were not much better than the killer in Jack London’s “Moon-Face!” 🙂
    I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a volume of Wharton’s ghost stories lying around somewhere. Still haven’t gotten to it…

    1. Jay, now that you mention it, this story does remind me of “Moon-Face” a little bit!

      Overall, I liked the story, but I will say that is was rather wordy.


    1. I have to admit the melons caught me off guard – but it was a very good story. I haven’t read a lot of Wharton’s work – ghost stories or anything else, but she might be growing on me.

      1. I’m going to have to give one of her novels a try sometime soon. In the meantime, based on the couple of stories I’ve read, I would give her a tentative “like”.

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