Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth: Lily Bart Essay

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““Oh, I know—apple-blossoms on blotting-paper; just the kind of thing I shall be doing myself before long!” exclaimed Lily, starting up with a vehemence of movement that threatened destruction to Miss Farish’s fragile tea-table./Lily bent over to steady the cups; then she sank back into her seat. “I’d forgotten there was no room to dash about in— how beautifully one does have to behave in a small flat! Oh, Gerty, I wasn’t meant to be good,” she sighed out incoherently.”(Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, p. 259-260, Book 2 Chapter 8) This passage demonstrates how deeply rooted wealth and marriage are to Lily’s character. Lily cannot survive without money and she can never find a perfect marriage. At the time of this passage Lily is …show more content…
Her father is described as a neutral figure and her memory of him is hazy at best. This lack of a father figure led to Lily’s attitude towards men. Because of this Lily always denies herself suitable marriages because she always feels she can do better. Lily is conflicted between the man she loves and the man with money. She loves Seldon but she deems him too poor for her perfect marriage. After much thought, Lily decides to marry Peter Gryce who is exceedingly wealthy but is too late as he is already engaged at the time of her decision. Lily cannot decide between love and money both of which are important aspects of her life. She is unwilling to compromise between the two which eventually leads to her downfall. Lily needs to marry a man with wealth and a stable status in high New York society because she needs a source of income to supplement her own unstable wealth. The cycle of wealth and poverty is fueled by Lily’s gambling habits and her addictions to the upper class life. Lily is a compulsive gambler as seen throughout the book. She gambles at social gatherings on games of bridge and realizes too late that she had lost most of her money. Later in the novel, Lily asks Gus Trenor to help her invest in the stock market. Lily also loses a majority of her wealth on maintaining her appearance both physically and socially. She spends money on pleasure trips to purchase new clothing and donates to a
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