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The Day of Their Wedding

William Dean Howells

SALE PRICE: U.S. $9.95
William Dean Howells
The Day of Their Wedding
Series No.: 145
ISBN: 1-933382-71-6, Pages: 144
American Literature, Fiction

Masterworks of Fiction (1895)

Two young people, Lorenzo and Althea, wish to get married; the only trouble is that they belong to a Shaker community and must run away to do so. This simple and touching novel, published originally in 1895, tells of their short escape as they encounter the brave new world they hope to belong to. By the end of the day, however—despite their deep love and desire—they choose to return to their community, not certain whether or not they want to be part of the modern world.

Howells writes brilliantly in this short work, without exaggerating or diminishing his characters or their beliefs. This is a lovely tale, as fresh now as it was at the end of the 19th century.

Book Review(s)

LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Sunday, December 17, 2006)

by Susan Salter Reynolds

Lorenzo and Althea run away from their Shaker "Family" in Massachusetts to get married. Overcome by "foolish feelings" (what the Shakers call love), they elope by train to start a new life in the "world-outside." William Dean Howells, editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1871 to 1881, wrote several works of fiction and nonfiction, most famously The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885). The Day of Their Wedding (1895) is the story of the elopers' one and only full day together. Althea experiences each novelty—the stranger who speaks to her, the sight of her beloved in "outside" clothing, the taste of restaurant food—as a shock. Lorenzo has a hard time getting her to remove her bonnet. Both have trouble giving up the "angelic" for the "earthly" life. A cabdriver (horse and buggy) offends them by his familiarity; much of their new life seems to require financial transactions. All in all, the world-outside dismays them. They ask a minister to marry them; he's fascinated by their views on love ("a kind of leading") and marriage (because Shakers have all things in common, they explain, and because Jesus did not marry, Shakers do not). They complete the ceremony, but in the end homesickness triumphs over love. In its quiet way, it's an agonizing novel. Howell's yearning for a purer life shines through; he is clearly drawn to the beauty and simplicity of the Shakers and repulsed by the crassness of the world-outside and its spiritual poverty.

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