Category Archives: Contexts

Two Allusions in Wharton

Just wanted to pop in to the discussion here to note a couple allusions of relevance to Wharton’s “The Descent of Man.” The first is, well, The Descent of Man (1871), Charles Darwin’s second major work on evolution, and one in which he explicitly links the concept of evolution to the origins of mankind. If you’re interested, you can find it at Google Books or at Project Gutenberg.


Another, subtler allusion is contained in the title of Professor Linyard’s satiric/pseudo-scientific/smash-hit book The Vital Thing. In Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest (subtitled A Trivial Comedy for Serious People) (1895), Gwendolen observes that “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.” Wilde’s play can be read here.

And of course, if you’re interested in more short stories by Wharton, you can find the entirety of the collection from which this story comes at Google Books or Project Gutenberg.