“A Journey” Summary by Edith Wharton

“A Journey” is a short story by Edith Wharton about a married couple who are returning to New York by train after being away for the husband’s health. Here’s a summary of “A Journey”.

“A Journey” Summary

A woman lies in her train car. She can see her husband in his across the aisle through a gap in the curtain. There’s distance and irritation between them now. His voice is weak; she wonders if she’d hear him if he called. A year ago, when he’d been healthy, they were in step with each other. Now, she’s too energetic for him, and feels confined.

They gave up their nice house and moved to Colorado for his health. He got worse. He’s not the same man anymore—she has to be the protector now and tend to him. She resents his condition, with only occasional moments of pity.

She was happy when the doctors said to return home, even though they know this means he won’t last long. They act like there’s still hope.

She was worried something would interfere with returning home, but it went as planned. She never really liked anyone she met in Colorado.

A Journey Edith Wharton Summary Synopsis Plot
“A Journey” by Edith Wharton: Plot Summary

He got some amusement looking out the window the first day but worsened on the second and slept badly. On the third day he’s worse and irritated. Some people offer help, but there’s nothing to do.

She sits with him a while before bed. She tries to look forward to being back home in less than twenty-four hours. She hopes they won’t pretend too much that he’s looking well.

She worries whether he might be calling to her. She wants to check on him but doesn’t want to risk disturbing him either. She eventually clams her mind and sleeps.

She wakes at seven in the morning and feels hopeful. They’ll be home in ten hours. She goes to her husband’s berth to get him his milk. His hand is cold, and she soon realizes he’s dead. She realizes they’ll be put off the train if anyone finds out—she witnessed such a scene once. She can’t deal with being left alone on the platform with her husband’s body.

She keeps the curtain closed when the porter comes. Eventually everyone is up and the porter comes by again to make up the berth. She says he needs his milk first, so it’s brought when they leave the current station. She drinks it herself and persuades the porter to let her husband sleep.

A motherly woman sits by her, offers to take a look and gives some advice but she fends her off. The wife feels the passengers looking at her and the closed curtain. A fat man in black sits across from her and explains sickness is a delusion and one must open up to the spirit. He has a pamphlet.

“A Journey” Summary, Cont’d

She hears a conversation about the best way to take medicine. She’s in a fog, but manages to answer the porter’s questions and fend off the motherly lady.

She anticipates what will happen when they reach New York. His body will be very cold and they might know he’s been dead since morning. There will be lots of questions. She sets it in her mind that she must pretend she doesn’t know and scream when the curtain is opened.

She repeats to herself that she doesn’t know, but the words lose their meaning. She becomes fixated on the pattern in the curtain and then has a vision of her husband’s face. It follows her as she turns away and she’s startled. It feels like a lot of time has passed but everyone seems the same.

Remembering she hasn’t eaten, she has a dry biscuit from her bag and some brandy from her husband’s flask. She feels more relaxed and falls asleep.

She dreams of being swept into darkness and imagines herself lying dead next to her husband. She wakes in terror.

It’s getting dark out and there’s lots of activity as the passengers gather their things. The train enters the Harlem tunnel; they’ll be home in a few minutes. Her family will be at the station.

The porter says they’ll have to get him up now. Everything goes dark and she falls, hitting her head on her husband’s berth.

I hope this summary of “A Journey” by Edith Wharton was helpful.