House of Mirth

The Inevitable Descent of Lily Bart in The House of Mirth 11th Grade

The Gilded Age of the late 19th century saw the rise of extravagant hats, hairstyles, and high society. Subsequently, the Gilded Age was also host to an increasingly treacherous gap between the rich and the poor and stifling social restrictions against women as suffocating as their hourglass corsets. Lily Bart of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth is tragically caught between the two worlds: the pompous social elite and the immobile underclass. Lily teeters at the threshold of the sweet life she believes she deserves and totters at the edge of the abyss of a life of “dinginess.” Due to her precarious position as an unmarried woman of the Gilded Age with no way to provide for herself, Lily is given several opportunities to save herself from an intolerable fate of discomfort and self-loathing. Yet her insurmountable pride and arrogance force her to align to a moral code inconsistent to both the social expectations of the era and her own personal agenda. This acute indecisiveness is the key to Lily’s final demise. Ultimately, Lily’s inevitable descent is a product of her inability to sacrifice long held pride or personal morality in exchange for a restored social position during her spiral downward,...

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