Posted in Short Stories

Edith Wharton’s “The House of the Dead Hand”

J♥  J♥  J♥  J♥  J♥  J♥  J♥  J♥

It’s Week #7 and both of my Edith Wharton stories are off my DMI 2014 list.  This second one, “The House of the Dead Hand”, in spite of the creepy title, wasn’t a ghost story.  I guess if I want to read her ghost stories, I’ll have to do a little more research than just grabbing a couple of titles from a table of contents.

“The House of the Dead Hand” reminded me of some of Willa Cather’s art stories that I read for my DMI 2013 project; however, I would probably take Cather’s stories over this one.  A privately-owned Leonardo DaVinci painting takes center stage in a story that I just couldn’t get into.  Sybilla, the young girl who owns the painting, lives in the title house so named because of a marble hand over the front door.  One might say that an art critic reviewing the painting gets caught between Sybilla and her suitor who loves her but can’t marry her because she doesn’t have enough money.  She could have enough money if she sold the painting; however, Sybilla’s father won’t let her sell the painting.  By the time I got to the end of the story, I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters.

Every once in a while, some of Wharton’s descriptions warranted some notice, such as her description of the house itself:

As he passed out of the house, its scowling cornice and facade of ravaged brick looked down on him with the startlingness of a strange face, seen momentarily in a crowd, and impressing itself on the brain as part of an inevitable future. Above the doorway, the marble hand reached out like the cry of an imprisoned anguish.

But overall, even some interesting writing here and there couldn’t get me to recommend this story.  Of the three Wharton stories I’ve read – “The Bolted Door”, “All Souls’ “, and this one, I would say “The Bolted Door” is the best one.  I haven’t completely written off Edith Wharton.  Some day, I will probably read one of her novels – some day.

3 thoughts on “Edith Wharton’s “The House of the Dead Hand”

  1. Hi Dale,
    The quotation you shared is good. Too bad the story overall didn’t do it for you, I love your damning comment “By the time I got to the end of the story, I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters.” 🙂

    Also, I have to comment on that creepy picture. Is it just me, or do the dogs appear to be posing also, and almost mimicking her expression (or she theirs?). Wei-eird!

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