In The Fruit of the Tree, Wharton portrays corporate personhood as an early feminist alternative to the lingering vestiges of coverture, one that allows married women a socially acceptable method of furthering their own desires through the corporate profit-making imperative. Wharton emphasizes the social, communal nature of the corporation, using familiar constructs like “company” and the traditional bonds of marriage and family to naturalize the corporation into an extension of preexisting social ties. Up until the mid-nineteenth century, the legal doctrine of coverture constructed marriage as a form of group personhood in which a woman's legal being, including her property, became subsumed into that of her husband. In The Fruit of the Tree, Wharton presents the corporation as supplanting the strictures of coverture by pitting the old understandings of the meanings of marital union against the new financial realities of stock ownership. In addition, by creating a corporation where the stock is transferred from mother to daughter, Wharton complicates the gendering of the corporation, presenting its operations as animated in large part by women occupying traditionally feminine spaces.

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