House of Mirth

Percy Gryce and the Satire of High Society in ‘House of Mirth’ 11th Grade

In The House of Mirth, Percy Gryce is a rich young eligible bachelor upon whom Lily, one of Wharton's central characters, sets eyes on. Gryce is used by Wharton as a vehicle to convey the shallowness and brutality of the New York high society, often through Darwinian references. The idea of the survival of the fittest was rising to increased influence in science and through society at the time of the novel's publication. Wharton plays on this scientific finding and uses it as an extended metaphor in which to animalise her characters, and thus make them appear to the reader more savage. As well as this, the animalisation of the characters is used for making satire of the society as it conflicts with each of the characters self-belief that they are far more sophisticated than anyone else, or any other ‘species’ for that matter. Wharton uses a variety of other literary techniques and extended metaphors throughout the novel to describe Percy Gryce which mock the society he is part of.

Percy Gryce is first depicted as a shy man by the omniscient narrator, who describes him to be ‘dissembling himself behind an unfolded newspaper’. Wharton’s lexical choice of the verb ‘dissembling’ is synonymous to ‘acting’ or ‘pretending’ which is to...

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