Books and Movies Reviews

The House of Mirth

In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton presents the New York society at
the dawn of the 20th century.It is a New York that is divided into strict
social classes, where old wealth is being overshadowed by new wealth.The
ones below aspire to move higher while those do everything in their power
to stay where they are.For women like Lily Bart, however, being rich and
beautiful is a tenuous prospect.As they grow older, many find that the
Though she is still wealthy at the beginning of the novel, Lily is in
a difficult position, one foreshadowed by her meeting with the destitute
woman in the streets.Through this juxtaposition, Wharton shows the reader
that in many ways, Lily Bart is as constrained as her street woman
counterpart.For example, because she is comes from old wealth, Lily could
not work without losing social status. When Lily is further estranged
from her rich aunt, her position becomes more difficult.
At this stage, Lily has scarce options if she wants to retain her
social position in New York society.She could not work for a living
without sliding down the social ladder. She was in debt to the
unscrupulous Mr. Trenor. She had no monetary wealth after being
disinherited. Her only asset was her physical beauty, one that was
Thus, the only option for a woman of Lily’s status and circumstances
is a good marriage.Wharton articulates this position clearly, when Lily
states that only governesses or widows can be free enough to live by
themselves in an apartment.However, women like her were “poor, miserable,
marriageable girls” (9), had no choice but to be a wife.Unlike men, who
can marry if they desire, Lily states that “a girl must” get married in
order to remain accepted in New York society.When she fails to secure
marriage and is banished from her social circle, the only alternative for

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