Edith Wharton once stated that she “ . . . [doesn’t] know if [she] should care for a man who made life easy; [she] should want someone who made it interesting,” showing how Edith reflects Lily Bart, an unwed woman living in the midst of the elite society of New York, who struggles to find a suitable husband and live in the elite society that leads to her inevitable demise, in Edith's novel The House of Mirth (CITATION). Although many of the characters in the novel were in an elite and prominent society, they were possibly the most morally corrupt people since women married men for their wealth, and men expected women to constantly act proper and sophisticated. Edith Wharton’s modern novel The House of Mirth demonstrates why people in the
At the time in which the novel is set, there existed a powerful set of rules, regulations, and codes pertaining to an individual's conduct. Although these rules were not formally outlined, they were adhered to as though they were carved in stone. As a woman who was raised in this society, Edith Wharton is able to illustrate with great clarity the influence culture had on people living in that environment. She expresses, through her narrative, the perils of a life lived within these particular social codes. The origins of the communal rules of old New York are not made clear but the dilemma they create allows little freedom for both men and women. Men are to have only more distinguished and suitable professions such as in law or politics. Men are also not to fail in their expected duties. Women, in accordance with social conventions, are to act as innocent wives, mothers, and daughters. Due to these social standards, people have unrealistic ...
When Nettie first introduces her newborn child to Lily, she tells her “Marry Anto’nette-that’s what we call her: after the French queen in the play” (Wharton 334). The significance of the baby’s name is because it is an allusion to Marie Antoinette. Her lavish lifestyle is similar to the aristocrats of New York, but she was soon murdered during the French Revolution. Her murder represents an imminent downfall, as Lily experienced. However, Wharton changes the spelling in order to signify that Marry will not belong among the wealthy, such as Lily did not. Therefore, Wharton creates a connection between Lily and Marry, because both will obtain wealth, but diverge from society causing their decline and untimely death. When Lily dies, Wharton continues to highlight Lily’s connection to Marry. After she has overdosed, Lily begins to hallucinate that she is holding Marry, in which “…the baby more likely symbolizes [Lily’s] desire to born again” (Dixon). From this wish, Wharton is able to symbolize that Marry will embody Lily, and then is doomed. But Marry is a child, who cannot control her life, and according to Social Darwinism, is forced to endure her unsuccessful future. By making Marry a futile and naive baby, Wharton employs a sense of pathos, so she can censure Social Darwinism for harming a child and
Haney-Peritz, Janice. "Monumental feminism and literature's ancestral house: Another look at The Yellow Wallpaper". Women's Studies. 12:2 (1986): 113-128.
Haney-Peritz, Janice. "Monumental Feminism and Literature 's Ancestral House: Another Look At 'The Yellow Wallpaper '." Women 's Studies 12.2 (1986): 113. Academic Search Complete. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Lily Bart’s background from a modest family sets the foundation for her values and goals in life. Her upbringing is an important characterization device that the author uses. Wharton describes Lily’s household as a place in which “no one ever dined at home unless there was ‘company’” (32). In this setting, Wharton shows that the house is greatly rule by the need for appearances. While Lily’s mother is vigorous in her effort to save money, there never seem to be enough money. Even so, Wharton shows that the upbringing under the influence of her mother lead Lily to develops a taste for splendor and distaste for dinginess: “…Lily imbibed the idea that if people lived like pigs it was from choice, and through the lack of any proper standard of conduct. This gave her a sense of reflected superiority, and she did not need Mrs. Bart’s comments on the family frumps and misers to foster her naturally lively taste for splendour” (34). This desire for splendor ultimately led to her downfall because she is unable to choose between her desire and her fe...
The lives we lead and the type of character we possess are said to be individual decisions. Yet from early stages in our life, our character is shaped by the values, customs and mindsets of those who surround us. The characteristics of this environment affect the way we think and behave ultimately shaping us into a product of the environment we are raised in. Lily Bart, the protagonist in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, is an exceedingly beautiful bachelorette who grows up accustomed to living a life of luxury amongst New York City’s upper-class in the 20th century. When her family goes bankrupt, Lily is left searching for security and stability, both of which, she is taught can be only be attained through a wealthy marriage. Although, Lily is ashamed of her society’s tendencies, she is afraid that the values taught in her upbringing shaped her into “an organism so helpless outside of its narrow range” (Wharton 423). For Lily, it comes down to a choice between two antagonistic forces: the life she desires with a happiness, freedom and love and the life she was cut out to live with wealth, prestige and power. Although, Lily’s upbringing conditioned her to desire wealth and prestige, Lily’s more significant desires happiness, freedom and love ultimately allow her to break free.
This novel tells the story of the cultural and social aspects of patriarchal culture, which attempt to subdue Adele Lindner, a young Jewish woman living in New York City during the turn of the 20th century. Adele must continually face patriarchal oppression of the “workhouse” under the authoritarian management of young women to be domestic servants, instead of being trained as independently minded businesswoman in the community. Arthur Hellman, the manager of the working house, is a major barrier to Adele’s education, as the Beauvoir’s theory of women as the “other” is expressed in her critical opinion of the taskmaster of the working house:
Cixous, Helene. "Laugh of the Medusa." Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory And Criticism. Ed. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndl. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1991.
Irigaray, Luce. "This Sex Which Is Not One." Feminism: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism. Ed. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndle. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1991.