She says she envies Seldon's work, even though he is not of the highest orders of society, but she cannot emulate his masculine example:
"Ah, there's the difference -- a girl must, a man may if he chooses." She surveyed him critically. "Your coat's a little shabby -- but who cares? It doesn't keep people from asking you to dine. If I were shabby no one would have me: a woman is asked out as much for her clothes as for herself. The clothes are the background, the frame, if you like: they don't make success, but they are a part of it. Who wants a dingy woman? We are expected to be pretty and well-dressed till we drop -- and if we can't keep it up alone, we have to go into partnership" (Wharton 17-18).
This is a lesson that Lily learned early in life from her mother. On one hand, her mother taught her that refinement was important. On the other hand, because of her father's ruin and her mother's belief in the importance of keeping up appearances, Lily was counseled that her face was her fortune, and she must marry well. But her early sentimental education from when she was wealthy also remained with her:
There was in Lily a vein of sentiment, perhaps transmitted from this source, which gave an idealizing touch to her most prosaic purposes. She liked to think of her beauty as a power for good, as giving her the opportunity to attain a position where she should make her influence felt in the vague diffusion of refinement and good taste. She was fond of pictures and flowers, and of sentimental fiction, and she could not help thinking that the possession of such tastes ennobled her desire for worldly advantages. She would not indeed have cared to marry a man who was merely rich: she was secretly ashamed of her mother's crude passion for money (Wharton 54).
Lily has been brought up in a society where appearances and money are all-important, but which keeps women in an infantile state about money and upholds the value of romance. Her destructive path seems inevitable -- she cannot bring herself to marry purely...
At the end of the novel, unable to either find a fulfilling life either in work or marriage, she decides that she has no future:
She had learned by experience that she had neither the aptitude nor the moral constancy to remake her life on new lines; to become a worker among workers, and let the world of luxury and pleasure sweep by her unregarded. She could not hold herself much to blame for this ineffectiveness, and she was perhaps less to blame than she believed. Inherited tendencies had combined with early training to make her the highly specialized product she was: an organism as helpless out of its narrow range as the sea-anemone torn from the rock. She had been fashioned to adorn and delight; to what other end does nature round the rose-leaf and paint the humming-bird's breast? And was it her fault that the purely decorative mission is less easily and harmoniously fulfilled among social beings than in the world of nature? That it is apt to be hampered by material necessities or complicated by moral scruples? (Wharton 487).
Lily dies at the end of the novel, passively, half by intended suicide, half unintended, as a result of her addiction to sleeping medication. She can do nothing useful, but she does not have the money or the position to conceal this fact. She dies before Seldon can offer her marriage, but the question remains if Lily really does just miss being saved -- perhaps her real destruction came when she learned her mother's lessons about the importance of materialism too young in life which was combined with her internalization of the stereotype of a 'true' lady. She can neither marry purely for love or for money, leaving her in a kind of half-way house of morality -- the ironically titled House of Mirth.
Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. C. Scribner's sons, 1905. Google Books.
June 9, 2008. http://books.google.com/books?id=VruwAAAAIAAJ&dq=House+of+Mirth&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=lZsOStfVA4XFtgfU_qyQCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4
In her book Edith Wharton's Women author Susan Goodman writes that Lily suspects "…not much separates the business of marriage from the business of prostitution" (Goodman, 49-50); still, Lily is aware that a prostitute sells "her time, not her soul" -- which Lily has been asked to do. Goodman claims that Lily has a certain "moral appeal" which springs from her "persistent refusal to define herself as a commodity…" (p.
Franklin's autobiography demonstrates a truly American kind of businessman, because he so neatly embodies all of the assumptions and logical fallacies that American capitalism depends on in order to justify its dominance in an ostensibly equitable and representative society. Where Franklin's autobiography demonstrates the peculiar appeal to divine right that is used to justify the inequity of American capitalism, Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener demonstrates the almost willful obtuseness necessary
House of Mirth The film revolves around the early years of the 20th Century and the changing faces of the economy hence the social response to such changes. It is predominantly a depiction of the lifestyle that most ladies opted for with the increase in urbanization and amassing of wealth by a few individuals. Lily Bart, the chief character in the movie, is depicted as one who is highly influenced by the
Denied marriage, the only other societal option is suicide. Society is the agent of her demise, not Lilly: "her life is not unpleasant until a chain of events destroys her with the thoroughness and indifference of a meat grinder." Goetz, Thomas H. "Flaubert, Gustave." World Book Online Reference Center. 2006. [1 Oct 2006] http://www.aolsvc.worldbook.aol.com/wb/Article?id=ar200180. Biographical overview, provides insight into Flaubert's role as a uniquely realistic writer, thus stressing Emma's economic and moral
House of Mirth is set in New York high society in the 1920s, where the affluent have little more to do than to criticize and gossip about one another. Their conversations with each other are filled with snappy comments and sugarcoated insults. Despite their wealth, their setting, an environment filled with insecurities and constant arguments, taints the characters. The main character, Lily Bart breaks through the setting with her independent
Gender as Performance Theodore Dreiser's 1900 novel Sister Carrie is in style and tone in many ways radically different from Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, published just five years later. And yet there is in both works a similar core, what might be called a parallel moral, for both novels explore the ways in which gender is performative in the two societies that we learn about within the world of