House of Mirth

A Fool's Heart 12th Grade

In Edith Wharton’s novel, The House of Mirth, the beautiful but helpless Lily Bart is never able to escape from the follies and superficialities of the society that she is born into. According to a verse in Ecclesiastics which the novel was titled after- “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Accordingly, Lily has the “heart of a fool” due to her actions that keep her continually conforming to society, the “house of mirth”. However, her strong morals repeatedly keep her from making decisions that, while are unethical, would certainly result in her promotion and are sure ways at dominating society. Consequently, although possessing a fool’s heart, Lily’s heart is actually one of self-aware purity.

Lily Bart, essentially, is merely a sum of the influences of her world, a product of her time. Born into the “house of mirth”, her own mother, who married not for love, but money, continually urged Lily to use her beauty, a “weapon… for vengeance”, as “an opportunity for advancement” (32). Not only has Lily’s beauty been an integral part of her identity from an early age, but also the idea that it is her most redeeming quality. In addition, her beauty is quite the talk...

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