The thesis discusses implications of applying a postclassical perspective on the fictional mind to readings of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence and “New Year’s Day”. The author’s emphasis on depicting social aspects of thinking is discussed in relation to characterization, by understanding narrative as a rhetorical act, and by reference to Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the dialogic inner utterance. Two supplementary frameworks are provided to discuss the moral implications of Wharton’s strategy: firstly, the thesis argues that Wharton’s renderings of dialogic thought enable individualization and a sense of independent agency in settings which otherwise threaten to reduce characters to abstractions of their culture. Secondly, the thesis connects central male characters’ idolizing visions of the heroine to her self-concept and subsequent development. The visions are discussed in light of their function as embedded narratives and in the context of discursive authority. The visions form a recurring pattern, which shows how Wharton adapts her mind designs to each specific rhetorical purpose, as well as the development of her strategy over time. The failure of each of these visions to capture its subject illustrates Wharton’s tendency to assume male voices of authority with the intention of criticizing them.