Scott Fitzgerald. The heroines in these novels, Undine Spragg, the social upstart, and Gloria, the tearing beauty from Kansas City, demonstrate the central aspects in the lives of upper class young women. In other words, Wharton and Fitzgerald have been proficient and effective when they depict the lives of upper class young women through the characters in their novels and the readers are presented the best pictures of social values and perception a propos women. Wharton's Undine Spragg as well as Fitzgerald's Gloria represents not only women's role in their social circumstances, but, more significantly, the desire in every woman to challenge the superiority of man and to emerge from the shackles of social hierarchy.
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) is an American novelist who extensively dealt with the assorted elements in the lives upper class women throughout her novels and in her The Custom of the Country she achieves a great triumph in representing the role of women as she realized it. Her rendering of the enthralling segments of the American women's experience in the novel is greatly acclaimed. Undine Spragg in The Custom of the Country, similar to Ellen Olenska inThe Age of Innocence, Ethan Fromme and the delicate Lily Bart inThe House of Mirth, presents the women's role in the society.The fact that she based her own life experience in portraying the issues of women in search of their self-realization made her depiction of woman characters vivid and lustrous. Wharton has been especially effective in presenting the contemporaryworld of women in The Custom of the Country thanks chiefly to her own life experience in America. Wharton's self-described novel depicts her own marital, domestic, and financial anxiety and tells the need of women to have the best tactics suiting the demands of man-made culture. The social conventions required women to manage the subjugating tendencies of the culture. According to Patterson, the novel "illustrates the consequences of not developing managerial tactics in a rapidly incorporating American culture, a culture that 'promulgated its message of unity through subordination.'" (Patterson) The familiarity with the plight of women who had been awful preys to the brutal social conventions helped Wharton in the powerful depiction of their world and experience through the character Undine Spragg. As Diane McGee points out, Undine Spragg represents "the downwardly and upwardly mobile woman Undine has money, but is an outsider by birth and by upbringing." (McGee, 61) In fact, Undine's deficiencies compelled her make her own way in the world and she suffers from the lack of family protection and different domestic failure. Society fails to recognize the importance of the character and she is greatly sidelined in the social lineup.
Undine Spragg in The Custom of the Country skillfully represents the plight of women as conveyed by the theme: 'otherness' of mother. The novelist beautifully symbolizes misogyny in the character which incorporates negative attitudes and ideas about women as well as the enveloping fretfulness towards woman's 'otherness.' According to Wallace, the rise of Spragg may be realized as "yet another representation of a woman who is both persistently 'other' and mother." (Wallace) Undine Spragg in the novel also embodies a woman who tries fervently to come out of the shackles of the social conventi