Mrs. Wharton's story is the simple one of John Campton, the great American painter, whose only son, born in France, is subject to military service. The father, his divorced wife, and her banking husband all interest themselves to keep the boy out of danger, but he eludes their care and while ostensibly on staff work he is really with his regiment at the front. He is wounded, recovers, goes back, is wounded again and returns to die. The theme of the novel is American participation in the war, dramatized by the conversion of John Campton from a position of indifferent neutrality at the outset to a conviction that no 'civilized man could afford to stand aside from such a conflict.' Its substance is the goings and comings of Campton among all sorts of people, his humble French servants, his distinguished Parisian friends, his nondescript fellow countrymen, each of whom represents some attitude towards the War.
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