House of Mirth

Society's Effect on Relationships: Sense and Sensibility and House of Mirth 12th Grade

Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1811) is a novel of society and manners, following two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, in their bids for love and marriage. Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth (1905) focuses on New York’s high society and the struggle of a well-born socialite, Lily Bart. Both novels explore the integral themes of women, society and marriage. Despite being written almost a century apart, the social systems explored in these novels are overwhelmingly similar, with the end-goal of both female protagonists being ultimately marriage. The authors, in this sense, provide a critical view of the societies that place limitations on women.

In both novels, wealth, rather than love, is shown to be the most significant factor in marriage. The significance of wealth as a factor in marriage Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is portrayed at the end of the novel. Austen states that in Edward and Elinor’s situation, ‘One question after this only remained undecided between them, one difficulty only was to be overcome…Edward had two thousand pounds, and Elinor one...and they were neither of them quite in love to think that three hundred and fifty pounds a year would apply them with the comforts of life.’ Here, Austen suggests...

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