Edith Wharton's “The Lady's Maid's Bell” (1902, 1904) and “Kerfol” (1916) share a concern with sexual violence, isolation, and psychological abuse experienced by women. I argue that the stories depict irruptions of a spectral women's history into naturalized gender relations. I describe Wharton's mixing of Gothic, realist, and naturalist modes to depict a character type she found most interesting, one whose “fate is settled beyond rescue,” to support my contention that we should recognize the continuity of these stories with those aspects of her “major fictions, [which] taken together, constitute perhaps the most searching—and searing—feminist analysis of the construction of ‘femininity’ produced by any novelist in this [the twentieth] century.” Most assessments of the stories are not comparative. Thus, I draw here on the critical response to each story to advance the claim that by apposing them we find overlapping concerns with sexual violence, the historical contingency of gender, and the difficulties of achieving justice for women.

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