Undine Scragg is totally the 19-century version Kim Kardashian.
In The American Reader, writer Sage Mehta draws striking comparisons between the 32-year-old reality star we all know and Undine, the protagonist of Edith Wharton's 1913 novel The Custom of the Country.
Suffice it to say, we're convinced that some bizarre sort of reincarnation has happened.
In the story, Undine is a normal girl who rises the social ladder in New York City and achieves fame and notoriety — thanks in part to her many tabloid-worthy romances. But the real hook of the tale is that Undine also gets a divorce, a taboo action for that time period. (The first line of the novel is "Undine Scragg — how could you?")
According to Sage, Undine is a "beautiful, independent, selfish woman who continues to be redefined by each generation. I would argue today’s incarnation is Kim Kardashian."
She states that Undine's "vague discontent" in marriage is similar to Kim's attitude toward her wedlock with Kris Humphries, quoting Kim's public statement regarding her divorce.
"She gives no legal reason for divorce and no emotional one," Sage writes. "Her husband isn’t even mentioned by name. The decision is portrayed as entirely one sided, 'my marriage,' Kim says possessively. A few lines later, 'this marriage' implies that there will be others; like Undine, she is ready to embrace change ... Divorce is not anti-marriage to either woman. It facilitates more marriage: it is the prerequisite for the next, better match."
She also cites a moment in the show Kim's Fairytale Wedding: "Kim says to Kris, 'Babe, I seriously have been planning this dream wedding since I was ten years old. Like, it’s such a girl thing.' Kris’s reply is heartbreaking and—perhaps accidentally—astute: 'Yeah, then you could just slot any guy into it.'"
And then: the divorce heard 'round the world. "Like [Undine's first husband] Ralph, [Kris] disappears. And the Kardashians, the family that talks about everything, do not even mention his name. We are only given Kim’s statement, 'I hope everyone understands.' She moves on to the next man—and the audience follows, or disappears ... There is no chance for understanding, no one to ask: 'How can you?' Which to my mind, shows a deep disconnect with reality."
Ready for things to get even more meta? Sage herself had a high-profile wedding, which was considered a "fairy tale" occasion and had what was deemed "the most New York Timesean Wedding Announcement in the history of the New York Times, weddings, and announcements."
But regardless, Sage's argument is very compelling, and the whole shebang is worth a read. And Kim, I think we have the next selection for your book club.
Source: The American Reader