The House of Mirth
The House of Mirth is a novel about the personal struggle to fit into society and, ultimately, to get married.
I’ve chosen this book because I was attracted by a portrait of an authoritarian woman, Lily Bart, on the cover.
Lily Bart is an attractive woman with some important social and family ties, but at the age of 29 she is still not married, searching for the right husband who will give her the money and the status to remain in upper-class New York social circles.
“Society is a revolving body which is apt to be judged according to its place in each man’s heaven; and at present it was turning its illuminated face to Lily”.
This observation shows Lily at the height of her confidence in searching for a husband.
In her society (In America's Gilded Age, between 1876 and 1901, approximately), the rich got much richer and the poor got much poorer. It’s a time of great industrial expansion in the USA and Edith Wharton (the writer) knows the upper-crust society very well because her family was in it. She knows how cruel that society can be.
Lily lives with her aunt Mrs Peniston, but she spends much of her time at the Bellomont, the out-of-town estate of the wealthy Gus and Judy Trenor.
Here they play bridge for money, which is problematicfor Lily because she has a gambling addiction and she cannot stop gambling, even if it ruins her financially.
Lily describes her relationship with money in terms of freedom and slavery. When she has money and she can pay her debts, she feels “a sense of unparelled freedom”, although when she doesn’t have money and her debts overwhelm her, she likens her situation to that of slavery.
She is slave of the whims and desires of others, slave of the upper-class social requirements and slave of her own inability to be happy without money, in fact Lily has two main goals in the book: wealth and marriage. She wants to find a husband therefore securing a place into society, even if she passes up numerous chances,...