Edith Wharton: Exposing Aristocratic Society Essay

Edith Wharton: Exposing Aristocratic Society Essay

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Visualize being at a lovely dinner in New York City during the early 20th century and scrutinizing some of the most affluent people the city has to offer. Edith Wharton was able to witness all of the arrogance in New York during this time and put those observations into her novel, The House of Mirth. Edith Wharton was born on January 24th, 1862 into a prosperous New York family. She lived in an expensive area of New York and was primarily educated by governesses and personal tutors (Olin 72). Her family inspired the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” (Lee 22). Edith’s personal experiences have definitely had a huge impact on her writing. Her high social status, the Gilded Age in America, and her love for nature influenced Edith Wharton to write The House of Mirth.
Wharton’s noble social background was very influential on her writing. It allowed Wharton to give an insider’s perspective on the wealthy people of New York during this time. Due to her first hand view of society during the Gilded Age, Wharton was able to satirize this society and also reference the tragedies that go on through out it. In a letter to Dr. Morgan Dix, a rector of Trinity Church in New York, Wharton wrote: "Social conditions as they are just now in our new world, where the sudden possession of money has come without inherited obligations, or any traditional sense of solidarity between the classes, is a vast and absorbing field for the novelist” (Wharton “To Dr. Morgan” 98). In the novel, The House of Mirth, Wharton displays this opinion of society through the main character of the novel, Lily Bart. Lily is an unmarried woman without wealthy parents and no significant income of her own. In order to achieve financial and social stability, she must marry...

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...as Gossip Girl and 90210. Without Wharton’s novels, people of the twenty-first century would not know what goes on throughout the upper class.

Works Cited
Dwight, Eleanor. Edith Wharton: An Extraordinary Life. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994.
Lee, Hermione. Edith Wharton. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. Print.
Olin-Ammentorp, Julie. “Edith Wharton’s Challenge to Feminist Criticism.” Studies in American
Fiction. 16.2, 1998. 237-44. Rpt. in Novels for Students. Ed. David Galens. Vol. 15.
Detroit: Gale, 2002. 72-76. Print.
Singley, Carol J., ed. A Historical Guide To Edith Wharton. New York: Oxford UP, 2003. Print.
Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. New York: Vintage Books, 2012. Print.
Wharton, Edith. "To Dr. Morgan Dix."The Letters of Edith Wharton. Ed. Nancy Lewis. New
York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 5 Dec 1905. 98-100. Print.

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