The Sins of the Fathers: Mental Illness, Heredity, and Short Fiction by Wharton and Hemingway
Comparison study of Wharton's Sanctuary (1903) with Hemingway's "I Guess Everything Reminds You of Something," depicting a parent's exaggerated response to a son's ethical lapse. Pointing to the bipolar disorder affecting both Hemingway and Wharton's husband, Teddy, Tyler explores how these fictional works not only voice the authors' personal anxieties but also reflect widespread cultural concerns at the turn of the twentieth century regarding inherited mental illness. Investigates the popularity and social implications (including compulsory sterilization) of degeneration theory, the era's (pseudo)scientific concept that immorality, criminality, and mental illness could be passed down with each successive generation. While Wharton's Sanctuary concludes happily with the message that a mother's love and nurturing can overcome a child's inherited mental failing, Hemingway's story ends pessimistically with a father rejecting his son because of his son's inherited mental condition.
Edith Wharton Review