House of Mirth

For Love or Money?

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, chronicles the tragic life of Lily Bart in New York's fashionable high society. Exquisitely beautiful, Lily was trained to think of herself not as a woman capable of defining her own goals and making emotional commitments that would give shape and sustenance to her life, but rather as the lovely, passive woman whose future must necessarily be defined by the man who would marry her. However, Lily seems unwilling to realize the future she seems so clearly destined to attain. As Carrie Fisher puts it, "she works like a slave preparing the ground and sowing the seed; but the day she ought to be reaping the harvest she oversleeps herself or goes off on a picnic" (198). As much as Lily yearns for a rich lifestyle, her sense of morals allow her to despise some of her own desires and give up rare opportunities to establish her position in society. Lily is torn between two choices: living an incredibly rich, yet unhappy, life by marrying into money, or, surrendering to true love, and living happily by sacrificing her desire for money and a high status in society. Her independent spirit conflicts with what she feels she must do to achieve her goals, sending her down the social ladder...

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