The House of Mirth Essay

The House of Mirth Essay

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The House of Mirth


Lily and Selden are on a walk together, Lily having broken her second planned meeting with Percy Gryce in order to see Selden. The excuse she gave Gryce was that she had a headache that first prevented her from going to church and second from going on a walk with him. She instead convinces him to join the other guests and go to the Van Osburgh home in Peekskill.

Selden tells Lily that he views everything she does as having been premeditated. She disagrees, saying she is impulsive, but Selden argues that her genius is being able to convert impulse into intentions. They discuss the freedom that Selden enjoys, and he admits that he is able to be "amphibious" and live in both the wealthy elite society as well as the working society in New York where he is a lawyer.

Selden and Lily continue conversing, discussing her ambitions in the society while Selden chooses to belittle them. She finally asks him if he would marry her, and he responds that maybe he would if she wanted to marry him. They both get caught up in the moment, but it is destroyed by the sound of a motorcar that reminds Lily that she is pretending to be sick back at the house. Selden and Lily share a cigarette at the end, but Selden is no longer as friendly to her, telling her that he took no risks in offering to marry her if she wanted him.

Analysis



Lily establishes a pattern of not being able to commit herself, a pattern that starts here. Instead of going on a walk with Mr. Gryce, she takes the afternoon walk with Selden. This is a huge risk since Bertha Dorset considers it a direct attack on her. Lily is thus again risking her future by associating with Selden.

It was earlier alluded to that Selden essentially belongs to a ...


... middle of paper ...


...ryce rejected her because of gambling. "Do you know, Lily, he told me he had never seen a girl play cards for money till he saw you doing it the other night?" The irony of the situation is that had she not played cards, she would have been excluded from the social set in a different way.

Money and claims are intimately tied together at this point. There is a dichotomy between Wall Street and the social life that we see, "This vast, mysterious Wall Street world of 'tips' and 'deals'" (87). Lily asks Trenor to invest her money for her, forgetting that money gives the lender the right to expect something in return. This has been shown already with Jack Stepney trying to introduce Rosedale, and even hinted at by Mr. Trenor when he mentions Rosedale's "advice" to him. It is a game that Lily does not know how to play, and one that will lead to her ultimate failure.

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