Last weekend I visiting Biltmore, the Vanderbilt Estate in Asheville, North Carolina to compare this home with Wharton’s house. The author specifically said she did not want to build a home as large and imposing as George Vanderbilt’s. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take picture inside Biltmore, but here is a picture of the exterior view. Wharton’s home totaled 16,000 square feet while Biltmore boasts 175,000 square feet. Moreover, Vanderbilt’s home contains 250 rooms. In comparison, The Mount seems more like a home than Biltmore. Even the tourist experience is very different in the two homes. At the Mount, visitors are allowed to sit on furniture and only on of the rooms, her library, is roped off from the visitor area. While tours are encouraged, visitors may wander through the rooms freely. At Biltmore, roped walkways guide visitors through the rooms systematically. Even for the modern day guest, the Mount allows for more freedom and comfort than does Biltmore.
Biltmore compares more readily with the hotels and resorts of Wharton’s fiction than with her personal home. These spaces appear most notably in The Children and often have negative affects on the upbringing of children, especially young women. For example, other characters of this novel discuss the case of Doll Westway, a teenage girl who commits suicide after moving from grand hotel to grand hotel during her childhood. Wharton seems to demonstrate that the anonymity of these spaces may prevent children from growing up.
I am currently reading Love in the Machine Age by Flloyd Dell. This book is helping em think about the novels in terms patriarchal systems. There’s a hurricane now, so I should probably go to Richmond. Be safe everyone!