House of Mirth

Mirth in The House of Mirth

You are Ibsen. Review House of Mirth.

Which of the domestic palaces in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth claims itself as the titular source of the tragic novel? Each offers strong evidence in its own favor. There is the bucolic decadence of the Trenor's Bellomont; the old money severity of Mrs. Peniston's Fifth Avenue abode; the nouveau riche exhibitionism of the Wellington Brys residence; the philandering intrigue of the Dorset's Sabrina; the flamboyant societal fringe chez Gormer; the "torrid splendor and indolence" that fills the rootless Mrs. Norma Hatch's room at the Emporium Hotel; and, of course, the ironic shabbiness of Lawrence Selden and Gerty Farish's flats (289). So where shall we look to find the locus of "mirth" that Ms. Wharton's title promises? The answer, as the reader soon discovers, is nowhere at all and everywhere at once, for this house is one whose roof hangs ominously over the whole world of the novel's characters.

At the center of this world is Lily Bart, a beautiful but impoverished young woman, living off a stipend from her rich Aunt Peniston and the good humor of her wealthy friends. Determined to make a monetarily felicitous "match," Lily...

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