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reader ✓ The House of Mirth ☆ Paperback Read ↠ First published in 1905 The House of Mirth shocked the New York society it so deftly chronicles portraying the moral social and economic restraints on a woman who dared to claim the privileges of marriage without assuming the responsibilitiesLily Bart beautiful witty and Tastes she needs a husband to preserve her social standing and to maintain her in the luxury she has come to expect Whilst many have sought her something fastidiousness or integrity prevents her from making a 'suitable' mat Edith Wharton sets the New York social stage of the early twentieth century for a succession of short scenes that glitter with glossy superficiality Lightning backdrops and lush costumes are put on display to create a natural effect in this tableaux vivant of a novel where Lily Bart stands out as the most stunning living painting ever She is the leading actress of this theatrical narrative a delicate flower bred for exhibition and ornament whose beauty shines with the precise effortless grace and charm that will enable her to achieve her goals Being an orphaned single woman of twenty nine with frugal tastes Lily knows that in the gilded cage in which she blossoms and withers the only path to success is to become a saleable commodity that some wealthy gentleman will buy into marriageIt’s easy to find fault in Lily’s dignified composure Wharton treats her tragic heroine harshly She is vain snobbish selfish and as shallow as the stage of artificiality where she acts She covets money and social position above gentleness and compassion her ruthless anti sentimentalism is reflected in the hard glaze of her chiselled porcelain mask of complacency that in turn conceals her contempt for the parasitic life in which she has imprisoned herself But how much does the financial imperatives of this society in which wealth and not morality determines status influence in the making of stereotyped females grown up for mere decoration? “She was so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate”p8”I keep asking myself Is Lily a helpless victim or a hypocrite culprit? Guilty of presumptuousness or driven by desperation? The boundaries dividing the discrepant selves that coexist in Lily are as blurry as the thin line that separates fact from magic illusionI keep asking myself Who am I to judge Lily when I feel my life to be an ongoing seuence of scenarios where I play the roles my varied audience expects from me? She is as trapped as I am Lily’s broken wings don’t allow her to escape from the social jungle that made her what she is yet she craves for “freedom” and “happiness” while she keeps missing golden opportunities that present themselves in the form of eligible bachelors and running under obligations of generous cheues that are spent mindlessly on the card table And below the glittering surface of Lily’s existence a terrible sense of waste festers into growing despair She loves but denies herselfShe smiles but bleeds inwardlyShe wants to be saved but sticks stubbornly to her idea of successMr Selden offers Lily a place in his “republic where “freedom and success” are both possible “ ‘Freedom? Freedom from worries?’‘From everything – from money from poverty from easy and anxiety from all material accidents To keep a kind of republic of spirit – that’s what I call success' ” p78But Lily has no spiritual or actual home of her own like Woolf urged women to some years later and she clings feebly to the surface of her existence where she is swirled around by the turbulences of the social corset that asphyxiates herLoneliness poverty and isolation are the true protagonists of Lily’s desired House where there is no Mirth Lily’s frivolity is in fact a result of a deluded childishness that splits her troubled being in two halves the false one in perpetual display on the perfidious stage of society and the real one that radiates with emotional expressiveness in the last chapters of the novel when the mask of appearances is finally dropped and the bright tragic realism filters through the cracks of Wharton’s cardboard languageI don’t judge I sympathize I grieve But I can’t help but wonder how much of Lily’s story reflects Wharton’s professional career and the inherent conflict between her eagerness for popularity and the necessity to exorcize her own frustrations as a female writer in a sparkling scenario as facetious as her characters Hence my four stars saving the lacking one to pay homage to the fallen star in this House which is ironically full of Mourning

book · The House of Mirth Ë Edith Wharton

E responsibilitiesLily Bart beautiful witty and sophisticated is accepted by 'old money' and courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches But as she nears thirty her foothold becomes precarious; a poor girl with expensive Lily Bart the protagonist of Edith Wharton's stunning first novel is introduced to the reader as a young woman traveling within high society While her blood and wealth may place her on the fringe of that society her pale beauty as it is continuously characterized throughout the novel elevates her within its ranks Lily is marriage material And within Manhattan's high society at the turn of the century women are meant to marry; and in order to marry women are meant to maintain a reputation of pale innocence indeed they mustLily hesitates to uestion these two fundamental rules that bind her save on rare occasion in conversation with Lawrence Selden the man it seems she would marry if the choice were hers and who stands far enough outside Lily's circle to critiue that circle from an apparent distance Selden however presents Lily with several problems First Selden himself is hardly able to separate himself from the rules of Manhattan society even if he so desired to or so imagined the independence of his perspective Second Selden serves as preacher counselor and sounding post to Lily with respect to the pitfalls of high society but while Selden's efforts to take high society off its pedestal strike a chord with Lily and indeed echo many of her own thoughts Selden never presents Lily with a viable alternative to the only circle and the only set of rules she knowsThe final problem that first emerges from the relationship between Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden is the crux of the novel and the launching point for several shrewd insights Wharton compellingly places within the American cultural dialog as extant within the novel Lily couldn't marry Selden if the choice were hers And perhaps ironically she likely would not in any case as Selden lacks the most essential thing men in high society bring to a marriage moneyLike any fully painted character in a great work of fiction Lily Bart is a woman of substantial intellectual and emotional force Indeed given the degree the reader is aware of the goings on inside Lily Bart's head it can be surprising to step back and remember the novel's narrated in the third personLily viewed in isolation is than situated to grab control of her life if that control were hers to grab But because she does not live in isolation control is not hers Her will is usurped at almost every turn by the societal forces around her; which among other things make her will all but moot While an argument could be made that Lily has a knack for making choices that reflect upon her poorly she is defined nonetheless and far by the perceptions of those around her than by any sense of self she seeks to or by happenstance does affirmatively present to the world And in light of the rules that constrain her her reputation never in her hands spirals downward as the novel progresses most often again via external rather than internal forces Absent her reputation intact that Lily is meant to marry becomes meaningless Her purpose and place within Manhattan's high society slip from her hands as trying at least to retain her dignity she chooses not to act on her own behalf when the opportunities are before her and otherwise and perhaps always lacks the choice to act on her own behalf as a byproduct of her social milieuThe House of Mirth is remarkably tragic At times it feels as though too much is going wrong for Lily Bart a little too often But the totality of the narrative and Wharton's prose combat what may be the novel's single shortcoming Wharton's novel surfaces from many contexts Two are telling or at least were to me upon reading The House of Mirth First Lily Bart retains her outer beauty throughout the greater part of the novel despite her internal struggle to maintain a grip in the face of near free fall Her inner world as she feels it and as others perceive it becomes dark as her pale beauty persists Sadly her inner life is all but wholly divorced from her outer reality Thus in Lily Bart's unfortunate transformation within the novel the saliency of maintaining superficial appearances is brought to the thematic forefront A theme present in both The House of Mirth and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray cast differently but not without similarities Second The House of Mirth shines a bright light of reality upon Transcendentalism At minimum Wharton illustrates that self determination and self reliance are one thing when you're living in a cabin in the woods growing beans and contemplating existence during solitary sojourns around Walden Pond but uite another in the company of others particularly a circle of others fixated upon a set of s or strictly rules Reaching further perhaps Wharton exposes a stark line between the wherewithal of men and women in American society to go Thoreau In other words The House of Mirth may temper Transcendentalism by portraying the profound influence of the company one keeps on reaching into oneself and beneath that the harsh reality of being a woman within that companyThe House of Mirth is one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century

Edith Wharton Ë The House of Mirth mobi

The House of MirthFirst published in 1905 The House of Mirth shocked the New York society it so deftly chronicles portraying the moral social and economic restraints on a woman who dared to claim the privileges of marriage without assuming th On occasions like this I rue the absence of a 'tragedy' shelf or some variation of the same because mere 'melancholia' seems too modest too euivocal a word to convey the kind of heartbreak Lily Bart's story inflicted on meIt is perhaps apposite that I came to this with my mind still fresh from Anita Desai's stirring homage to a resolutely single unsung fictional heroine who holds together a disintegrating family unacknowledged misunderstood left behind and forgotten Clear Light of Day Because Desai's Bim and Wharton's Lily are both flawed figures who manage to stand erect weathering storms of hostile circumstances that whittle down their will to live and sense of self worth Even when the vicissitudes of fate leave them psychologically battered and dying inside they manage to maintain their slippery grip on ideals that cost them dearly And how many tragedies can we think of in which the female protagonist's tragic status is not a mere matter of simple victimization at the hands of patriarchal figures of authority but is instead locked in a complex configuration of missed chances reluctance to surrender self esteem in exchange for societal approval and an unsympathetic social milieu? She was realizing for the first time that a woman's dignity may cost to keep up than her carriage; and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents made the world appear a sordid place than she had conceived it Lily Barton's ill fated fall from grace is not just the tragedy of a woman of insufficient means restricted to using her beauty as currency It is representative of a greater human predicament Unlike Desai's ornately crafted family drama taking place amidst the sualor of an Old Delhi neighborhood Lily's tale comes swathed in layers of exuisite riches The shimmer of expensive china the buzz of vacuous conversations conducted in affected accents the ring of self assured laughter spilling forth from the made up faces of social butterflies and the dispassionate flirtations between social aspirants and calculating husband hunters provide a glittering backdrop to her spiralling descent into the realms of penury and obscurity But this outward show of grandeur and exuberance stands in stark contrast to the bleakness of Lily's inner world the site of a perennial conflict between necessity and moral rectitude which Wharton limns with stunning precision and empathy Lily's bitter ending hits home not because she is a woman forced to choose between a marriage of convenience and complete annihilation but because that tragedy is one of her own making a fatal repercussion of her last defiant refusal to play by the rules of society If she slipped she recovered her footing and it was only afterward that she was aware of having recovered it each time on a slightly lower level Why Edith Wharton does not share the same pedestal of authorial eminence with figures like Fitzgerald I don't understand Both The Great Gatsby and 'The House of Mirth' indict the soulless heart of a blindly hedonistic social order and yet Wharton seems to be often viewed simply as a woman's writer As if to write from the female perspective and use female bondings and rivalry as tools of social critiue automatically ualify as criteria for exclusion of a work from greater recognition She had fallen she had gone under and true to the ideal of their race they were awed only by success by the gross tangible image of material achievement To hell with the canon then Gatsby's tragedy transpires as a result of his naivete and callow optimism Lily's ultimate end is an act of conscious self abnegation and implicit resistance to the value judgment systems which govern the world she inhabits It should be obvious which story's razor sharpness cut me to the bone