French Ways and Their Meaning

French Ways and Their Meaning

Edith Wharton was devoted to the French people and their culture. During the First World War, while living in France and devoting herself to numerous war and relief efforts, she wrote several essays about the French and the unique attributes of their civilization, having in mind particularly the need for both Americans and the English to understand the ways of a people who...

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Title:French Ways and Their Meaning
Author:Edith Wharton
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Edition Language:English

French Ways and Their Meaning Reviews

  • Laura

    I finished my MA thesis on Wharton last night. Can't...read...more...Wharton.....

    In spite of my shortcomings, I did enjoy reading this.

    is a collection of essays and articles Wharton wrote during World War I. This collection is brilliant and reveals Wharton's thoughts on women, culture, and equality. Her comparison of French and American societies still rings true today, especially her discussion of marriage, Wharton's signature topic. She claims that when an A

    I finished my MA thesis on Wharton last night. Can't...read...more...Wharton.....

    In spite of my shortcomings, I did enjoy reading this.

    is a collection of essays and articles Wharton wrote during World War I. This collection is brilliant and reveals Wharton's thoughts on women, culture, and equality. Her comparison of French and American societies still rings true today, especially her discussion of marriage, Wharton's signature topic. She claims that when an American woman is married, she ceases to be part of society and have any influence on the men in her community. The whole time I read this, I kept thinking about how true this still is: women are still expected to become "the good little woman" really from the point they become engaged. The wedding day is the ceremony that symbolizes this transition. Especially interesting is the fact that Wharton is making the same argument as Gayle Rubin in "The Traffic in Women," but a good 60 years before her! I am a die hard Wharton fan, and this collection is part of the reason. A must read for anyone interested in Wharton, feminism, or the early twentieth century.

  • Ellen

    This book was a little surprise. I found it when I was searching the library for geographical and language information about France. I really like Wharton's writing style. It is definitely early 20th century, but so elegant and measured. Her wit is subtle but carries through each little essay in this book. I agree with the introduction that this book isn't so much about who the French really are, but how Edith Wharton saw them. And she loved the French people very much. Her insights into the Fre

    This book was a little surprise. I found it when I was searching the library for geographical and language information about France. I really like Wharton's writing style. It is definitely early 20th century, but so elegant and measured. Her wit is subtle but carries through each little essay in this book. I agree with the introduction that this book isn't so much about who the French really are, but how Edith Wharton saw them. And she loved the French people very much. Her insights into the French culture are eye-opening. Her description of how, compared to French women, American women are infants attending a Montessori school was intriguing. I had to keep reading to find out why she thought that. She also does not flinch from describing what Americans have called French flaws, such as carrying on traditions that have lost their meanings. Wharton empashsis the overall French traditoin is a rich one, which is more than one can say about Americans who do not seem to remember yesterday let alone their roots. OK. She didn't actually say that. I am paraphrasing heavily, but I think she might agree.

    I don't know how accurate Wharton was in her description of the French during and after WW1, but I sense that there are nuggets of truth there that carry on to today. I hope to travel to France some day and find out.

  • Joanna

    I have always loved how Wharton writes. She captivates me. This book was a little different because it is non-fiction. Still, just to hear her well-expressed insights was relaxing.

    The most interesting and surprising part of this book to me was how she described the differences between French and American woman. I would have thought she would have explained the French women were more sophisticated because ... I don't know.... because of some sort of liberal exposure or how they wore t

    I have always loved how Wharton writes. She captivates me. This book was a little different because it is non-fiction. Still, just to hear her well-expressed insights was relaxing.

    The most interesting and surprising part of this book to me was how she described the differences between French and American woman. I would have thought she would have explained the French women were more sophisticated because ... I don't know.... because of some sort of liberal exposure or how they wore their hair. She lays it out clearly: she claims that it is due to the fact that French women have on-going interactions with men that keep them intellectually alive and interesting.

    That was a surprise to me. She said that in America right when women are reaching the emotionally and intellectual peak, they become housewives who are surrounded mostly by other women, and are hindered (be upset if you want). She says the French "salon" (I am not fully familiar with this) where male visitors are received (and female, alike), and where conversation is an art, keeps the intellect of the woman alive, with ideas and discussions of politics, culture and cleverness.

    I had never considered this before and was surprised to find her say it. I wouldn't go so far as to say housewives aren't interesting. I think that is an insult and an injust one. But it is interesting. I myself have been in the workforce for many years and am single with no children. The discussions I have amidst mothers and housewives are markedly different than those I have had when out and about traveling and immersing myself amongst al ages. Does this make me more interesting? I have never thought about that. But I do know I enjoy great conversation almost more than anything, and Wharton emphasizes that the French are the masters of the art of it.

    As well, she explained that with the history of France and it's invasions, that the concept of tradition is one that is probably rather foreign to us on US soil, as we have not had our lands invaded and taken away from us. And so, the traditions that we may sometimes find slow or tedious there, they treasure.

    And as for the French being rude, she tied that back to those very traditions. She says that since foreigners may not know to say "Bonjour" to the shopkeeper when they enter the shop as is "tradition," when they are treated coldly they think the French are rude, when really they perhaps feel like things weren't being done as they "should be."

    ---lots more to it. A short read. If you enjoy France or want some insight on the culture, Wharton always has some insights.

  • Manik Sukoco

    This delightful little volume is a compilation of articles written for American troops bound for France in World War One. While their effect on the average doughboy may be questionable, they give a powerful and invaluable insight into one of the most perceptive minds of the age.

    Wharton, in her most engaging and always readable style, discusses First Impressions, and examines issues of Reverence, Taste, Intellectual Honesty, and Continuity, and, in her essay on the New Frenchwoman, reveals

    This delightful little volume is a compilation of articles written for American troops bound for France in World War One. While their effect on the average doughboy may be questionable, they give a powerful and invaluable insight into one of the most perceptive minds of the age.

    Wharton, in her most engaging and always readable style, discusses First Impressions, and examines issues of Reverence, Taste, Intellectual Honesty, and Continuity, and, in her essay on the New Frenchwoman, reveals perhaps more about herself than her subjects.

    Highly recommended as a fine introduction to the author.

  • Nari

    A quick little read in which Edith Wharton compares/contrasts the French to Americans through short little essays covering topics such as: taste, reverence, and intellectual honesty to name a few. The French frequently came out on top in her comparisons. There were a few memorable quotes. Much of the French enigma still remains nearly 100 years after this book was published. The last line in the book really sums it all up:

    "But when you have summed up the whole you will be forced to conclude tha

    A quick little read in which Edith Wharton compares/contrasts the French to Americans through short little essays covering topics such as: taste, reverence, and intellectual honesty to name a few. The French frequently came out on top in her comparisons. There were a few memorable quotes. Much of the French enigma still remains nearly 100 years after this book was published. The last line in the book really sums it all up:

    "But when you have summed up the whole you will be forced to conclude that as long as enrighing life is more than preserving it, as long as culture is superior to business efficiency, as long as poetry and imagination and reverence are higher and more precious elements of civilization than telephones or plumbing, as long as truth is more bracing than hypocrisy, and wit more wholesome than dullness, so long will France remain greater than any nation that has not her ideals."

  • Caroline Hurwitz

    Obviously some of it is dated but much of the collection stands strong.

    There is a healthy amount of early 20th century racism, heads up

  • Gretchen

    I like Edith Wharton and love all things French so of course I checked it out of the library. Lots of observations that are still true today. Interesting opinions on women during WWI. Kinda wordy and not the best for bedtime when sleepy. But oh, how she loved the French! Side note: her novel(la) Ethan Frome is one of my favorites and I named my first son Ethan. But not after Ethan Frome because he had a sad, miserable life. It just brought the name to my attention.

  • Yann

    Il y a dans ce petit livre un ensemble d'articles écrits par une journaliste américaine ayant vécu en France au début du vingtième siècle, en particulièrement pendant la première guerre mondiale. Très francophiles, ces articles sont là pour faire l'éloge du pays qu'elle occupe, et qu'elle cherche à rendre attrayant à ses compatriotes. Pour cela, elle se concentre sur les préjugés négatifs dont les français sont affublés, et tournent systématiquement tout à leur avantage, sans oublier de glisser

    Il y a dans ce petit livre un ensemble d'articles écrits par une journaliste américaine ayant vécu en France au début du vingtième siècle, en particulièrement pendant la première guerre mondiale. Très francophiles, ces articles sont là pour faire l'éloge du pays qu'elle occupe, et qu'elle cherche à rendre attrayant à ses compatriotes. Pour cela, elle se concentre sur les préjugés négatifs dont les français sont affublés, et tournent systématiquement tout à leur avantage, sans oublier de glisser quelques petites bizarreries pour donner plus de vraisemblance à sa jolie peinture, comme la superstition dans les campagnes.

    C'est un peu un livre miroir par rapport au récit de Marie Grandin,

    , dans lequel l'auteur était très admirative de l'Amérique. Mais l'opposition n'est qu'apparente sur certains points. Par exemple, les deux louent en même temps la mixité dans les écoles américaines, et déplorent la situation des femmes mariées américaines par rapport aux françaises, parait-il moins libre. La qualité phare qu'elle admire chez ses hôtes, c'est l'honnêteté intellectuelle: c'est effectivement une jolie qualité, et on aimerait bien être à la hauteur de cette gentille flatterie.

    Un point sur lequel elle insiste beaucoup, et qu'elle emprunte aux préjugés des français sur les américains, c'est une soi-disant 'maturité' dont se flatte l'européen. C'est un point un peu ambiguë, car si la prudence est certainement une bonne chose, elle peut à l'excès verser dans la malice, et je me demande si une bonne foi naïve et sincère et des rapports plus simples et directs ne rendent pas la vie finalement plus agréable que cette inquiétude de toujours vouloir être plus malin que les autres. On ne peut hélas y échapper.

    Également, une chose qui m'a fait sourire, c'est son idée selon laquelle les français, et surtout les françaises, seraient naturellement artistes. Enfin, s'il y a une qualité dont elle pense que ses compatriotes devraient prendre de la graine, c'est le rapport à l'argent et au temps. Il lui semble que les français savent mettre une borne à leurs désirs d'amasser de l'argent pour profiter le plus possible de leurs loisirs, sans pour autant se laisser aller à une honteuse indolence.

    Enfin, elle insiste beaucoup sur la communauté de valeurs entre les deux pays qui dépasse de beaucoup les petites différences de mœurs, chante sur tous les tons les louanges d'une vieille civilisation, bref, fait tout son possible pour inspirer aux jeunes qui viennent combattre des sentiments positifs. Il faut faire la part des choses dans ce mélange de flatteries grossières, de généralisations outrancières, de propagande flagrante et d'admiration sincère, et cela fait, ça donne un document historique qui nous plonge dans le passé, et offre un de ces petits chocs de culture que j'aime bien.

  • Khush

    I found the title extremely fascinating. In few day, I am going to France for three weeks and thought this might be a good book to read, even though it was written in 1919.

    It is a small book. The writing is always powerful but somehow I did not enjoy reading what she has to say about the French. Her take on the French is full of admiration and appreciation. Consequently, I found the text, at least in parts, hilarious. In the preface, she writes, ''one can imagine the first Frenchman

    I found the title extremely fascinating. In few day, I am going to France for three weeks and thought this might be a good book to read, even though it was written in 1919.

    It is a small book. The writing is always powerful but somehow I did not enjoy reading what she has to say about the French. Her take on the French is full of admiration and appreciation. Consequently, I found the text, at least in parts, hilarious. In the preface, she writes, ''one can imagine the first Frenchman born into the world looking about him confidently, and saying: Here I am; and now, how am I to make the most of it.'' Later in the book, she compares the French woman to the American woman and claims that the French woman is fully evolved and grown-up, while the American woman is still in Kindergarten. She gives, not so satisfying reasons, for such a blunt distinction.

    As she goes on to describe the French history and its traditions, she just sees greatness everywhere. She is superbly selective, and only through this careful selection she supports what she has to say. One is aware of the greatness of French art, culture and so forth. Paris, for instance, has always attracted artists, writers, young people from every corner of the world. However, page after page Wharton chants paeans of what is good about the French. The book has some wonderful descriptions of the French landscapes. One cannot help thinking how is this different (or superior) from some other European landscapes. I can see in her words European cities and landscapes.

    Only in the last chapter, she says a few negative things about the French, and then gently dismiss them. For instance, She writes, ''The French it must be repeated, are a race indifferent to the rights of others.'' She further adds some popular stereotypes about the French such as they are ''mean and cannot be trusted.'' But according to Wharton, these cliches about the French, if there is any truth to them, only reflect the lower classes ( as if the lower classes are not French). The aristocratic (or the right sorts) French are always democratic, laborious and even ascetic. Elsewhere she says they are pleasure seekers and knows how to be joyful.

    Wharton right in the Preface warns the reader that her views on The French are not definitive in any way, and refers to her book as desultory that contains a series of disjointed notes on the French.

    The book in terms of language is far from disjointed. And not desultory by any standards.

  • Sylvie

    Some interesting thoughts. Like this one about French ant their respect of La Patrie: “Far different is the lot of the dishonest man of business and of the traitor to the state. For these two offenders against the political and social order the ultimate horrors of the pit are reserved”

    After all the French are daring bring to court their ex-President who got money from a foreign country Libya hopefully Americans will do the same with our present buffoon and its Russia monies

    Ther

    Some interesting thoughts. Like this one about French ant their respect of La Patrie: “Far different is the lot of the dishonest man of business and of the traitor to the state. For these two offenders against the political and social order the ultimate horrors of the pit are reserved”

    After all the French are daring bring to court their ex-President who got money from a foreign country Libya hopefully Americans will do the same with our present buffoon and its Russia monies

    There were quite a few remarks which had still apply but the analysis is generally outdated compared with the modern French society.

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