The Hypocrisy Of The Upper Class By Edith Wharton

1179 WordsNov 30, 20165 Pages
Edith Wharton’s novel, House of Mirth, develops a critical view of the immorality of the upper class through Lily Bart and her failure to fully attain social mobility. Wharton comments on the corruption of the upper class, and implies that the acquisition of wealth and social status comes at the cost of a compromised moral sense. While some wealthy individuals may not necessarily be corrupt, it is clear that the upper class as a whole is primarily concerned with self-preservation and personal gain. This narcissism in the higher classes often leads to a blatant disregard of others, accompanied by a lack of understanding of the consequences of their actions. Thus, the social elite are often plagued with corruption and immorality, as evidenced throughout the novel. Wealth brings power and status to the social elite, and ultimately becomes the source of their corruption. Perhaps the best example of this is Bertha Dorset. In the beginning of the novel, as Lily is contemplating her gambling debts at Bellomont, she considers how envious she is of Dorset, who she describes as a woman who “could take a man up and toss him aside as she willed, without having to regard him as a possible factor in her plans” (Wharton). Unlike Lily, Bertha’s wealth gives her financial security, and thus has no real necessity to win over the affections of men. As such, she has significantly less social grace than Lily. Judy Trenor even characterizes Bertha as the type of woman who “delights in making
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