Originally published in 1916, but actually written in 1890, Bunner Sisters is a novella about social exclusion and deprivation. The sisters of the title, Anna Eliza and Evelina scrape a living from selling simple haberdashery items such as buttons, trims and ribbons. Their lives are mundane and in all respects unrewarding in the ordinary sense, but they are sustained by their dedication and love for each other. However, their existence is disturbed when the birthday gift of a clock serves to introduce a mysterious stranger in the form of a clockmaker.
The novella is noteworthy for its assumed influence by the real-life Bunner Brothers, Henry and Rudolph who had literary and artistic talents respectively and were within the same social circle as Wharton in late nineteenth century America. To what extent this can be pursued remains open to question, but the coincidences are plain, even if the renown of the Bunners diminished significantly after their deaths.