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Sheltered Life, The

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Seven Against Thebes (Hepta epi Thēbas; Septem contra Thebas) to Sir Walter Scott and Scotland

a novel by Ellen Glasgow, published in 1932. Set in Queensborough (a fictional version of Glasgow's native Richmond, Virginia), this novel represents its author's profoundest speculations on the interrelationship of sexuality and society. Its all-pervasive central figure is a former Southern beauty, Eva Birdsong, married to the weak, amoral George, of whose relationships with others she is obsessively jealous. We see Eva through the eyes of her neighbour, a young girl, Jenny Blair Archibald, and her grandfather, a distinguished Southern (Confederate) General, David Archibald. Jenny's great devotion to Eva does not prevent her falling in love with George who, for his part, responds to her, albeit a little reluctantly. At the climax of the novel Eva finds George and Jenny in each other's arms; Jenny flees into the garden and George kills both his wife and himself. The novel shows, with irony and with a genuine sense of the tragic, how Southern society has become over-inward in its life; emotions turn on themselves and prove destructive.

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