Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: THE NEW YORK STORIES OF EDITH WHARTON: "Mrs. Manstey's View"


"Mrs. Manstey's View" was Edith Wharton's first published story. Although I've read several of Wharton's novels, I have not read many of her stories. This one, written at age 29, is already masterful. Although it may seem dated in its style and language, it is a slight flaw that in no way ruins a story.

Mrs. Manstey, an elderly woman, sits at her window, which overlooks several backyards, most of the day. She is content with this life--so content, in fact, that when visitors come it is hard for her to look at them instead of the Rear Windowish view outside. 

Her landlady informs her that their next door neighbor is about to build an extension on her house that will block Mrs. Manstey's view. Mrs. Manstey gathers herself up and goes to see the woman and offers her money to stop construction. It is half of all the money in her bank account. The woman agrees to consider the offer and promises not to allow the construction to begin the next day. But, of course, it does. Mrs. Manstey deals with it in the only way she can think of. 

Now I am an elderly lady that looks out my window from time to time. What I see though are high-end car dealers, a Walgreens, and a gas station. Also trees that make a nice green cover part of the year. There is nothing blooming though and no servants to watch preparing meals. If I had rented an apartment on the other side of the hallway, I would have a very different view, more small town and less urban.


George Kelley



Margot Kinberg said...

Isn't it interesting how the placement of rooms and windows can completely alter our view... I haven't read this one, but it would be interesting to read Wharton's first published story. 'Firsts' are a good way (at least to me) of seeing a writer's growth.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It certainly does not seem the story of a young writer, Margot. But Updike's first novel was also about elderly people. Perhaps observing the elderly is easy for a watchful writer.

Diane Kelley said...

I've read many of Edith Wharton's short stories, but not this one. I'll have to remedy that after reading your fine review! I've also enjoyed Edith Wharton's novels, too.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I'm at the car dealer now getting the car serviced so don't have access to my list, but I am near 800 stories read this year. Currently reading the third Dan Chaon collection, that post-Apocalypse book (pretty dark, as you would expect), and I've started Amy Hempel's first collection after your recent review.

And thanks for reminding me: I've read very little of Wharton's stuff, but I did buy her complete story collection (possibly the novels too), and perhaps I will read them in Florida this year.

neer said...

Hi Patti, this seems like an interesting story and a reminder that I need to read Wharton. Here's my contribution for this week: Rogues' Gallery ed, by Ellery Queen

TracyK said...

This story does sound good and I am interested in reading stories by Edith Wharton.

I laughed when you said "now I am an elderly lady" since we are very close in age. My husband doesn't think we are elderly but he is only 2 years younger than me, and we are definitely elderly.

It is interesting what a difference a view can make. Our small condo only has windows on one side. We used to have a line of tall trees between our set of condos and the ones across the way, and we enjoyed the feeling of seclusion. Then they had to be cut down (years ago) and now our view is less appealing and sometimes the noise is more obvious. And sometimes it is what you get used to that matters.