365 Days of Women Writers

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Day 53: The Bolted Door by Edith Wharton

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Sometimes when I read a story, I wonder what it would be like if I had read it when it was first published. Or at the very least, much earlier in my reading career before I became aware of the patterns of fiction.

So it is with The Bolted Door by Edith Wharton. It’s a bit tell-tale heart and reminds me a bit of Agatha Christie. (In the fascination with useless upper class people unable to conceive of working for a living way)

Hubert Granice is that useless upper class person who has spent the last ten years of his life as a failed playwright and now his despair drives him to do something curious – confess to the decade-old unsolved murder of his cousin in hopes of getting the death penalty.

Unfortunately for his plan, the man he confessed to (his lawyer) doesn’t believe him. How ever Granice tries to convince him, his lawyer doesn’t budge in his belief that Granice is innocent.

Much of the story is taken up with Granice confessing this crime over to various people who all refuse to believe him. He has an iron tight alibi that was investigated years earlier, and all the people that Granice suggest could corroborate his story cannot be found. Eventually he becomes unhinged that he’s locked up in an asylum.

The twist at the end is (of course) that he’s actually guilty of the murder. Maybe when the story was first published this twist was surprising.

The trouble for me is that there isn’t much development in the story beyond the initial confession – sure his agitation heightens with each confession until he’s completely unhinged but for me it was obvious that this tension was just building for the reveal that he’d had in fact committed the murder.

I can’t say that I’ve read a story with this exact plot before, but I feel like I have. If I hadn’t, I imagine I would have appreciated this story quite a lot more.

Written by Chance

November 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm