Historical Context in Afterward

”Old World” England vs. “New World” America: The Gilded Age, a period of economic prosperity coupled with social upheaval and inequality, was a period in American history beginning around the 1870s and continuing until the turn of the century. Though some, like the Boynes, became wealthy during this period, the country as a whole suffered from extreme income inequality. While America was seen as a progressive nation, workers’ and women’s rights being popular topics, England was viewed as having a comparatively more conservative culture during its equivalent Victorian era despite also becoming more liberal. Americans tended to value the fictionalized version of Europe over its reality, which wasn’t as paradisiacal as they hoped.

Historical Context Examples in Afterward:

I 1

"two romantic Americans perversely in search of the economic drawbacks which were associated, in their tradition, with unusual architectural felicities...."   (I)

The Boynes are not only willing to tolerate issues like lack of electricity and hot-water but also see these problems as part of the “charm” of older English architecture. The irony of this is further emphasized by the following line, in which Ned Boyne professes he needs to feel “uncomfortable” in order to believe he is living in an old house. The Boynes’ desire to purchase an old English country house is a marker of “New World” America’s fascination with “Old World” England’s associated traditions and histories.

" instead of the conventional formula which, till then, had kept their allusions within the bounds of custom...."   (III)

Polite custom dictated referring to a visitor as “the gentleman” rather than the supposedly more vulgar “he” or “him.” Since distress has gotten the better of Mary and Trimmle, they have dropped the air of propriety, preferring to speak more freely.