House of Mirth - The Nature of Nature Essay

House of Mirth - The Nature of Nature Essay

Length: 1783 words (5.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

House of Mirth  - The Nature of Nature

 
  Nature, whether in the form of the arctic tundra of the North Pole or the busy street-life of Manhattan, was viewed by Naturalist writers as a phenomena which necessarily challenged individual survival; a phenomena, moreover, which operated on Darwin's maxim of the "survival of the fittest." This contrasted sharply with the Romantic view, which worshipped Nature for its beauty, beneficence and self-liberating powers. In Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, Lily Bart attempts to "survive" within the urbane "drawing-room" society she inhabits. Although Selden uses Romantic nature imagery to describe Lily, throughout the novel such Romantic imagery and its accompanying meanings are continually subverted. By simply invoking different understandings and views of "Nature," Wharton demonstrates that not only is Lily's ability to "adapt" to various environments isn't necessarily salutary, but also that flower imagery, used in an ironic fashion, captures perfectly Lily's need for "climates of luxury." It is Wharton's image of a "hot-house," however, which ultimately captures the ambiguous nature of what, to Wharton, truly is Nature.

 

Lily, although a city-dweller, is described by Selden as one who is intimately connected with a benevolent, life-giving Nature. He exclaims, "The attitude revealed the long slope of her slender sides, which gave a kind of wild-wood grace to her outline- as though she were a captured dryad subdued to the conventions of the drawing-room" (13). Selden's notion of Lily's "sylvan freedom" and her interconnectedness to all things "natural" is echoed later in the novel, when Lily is either described as, or compared to, a "rose," (167) an ...


... middle of paper ...


...entury Literature 44.4 (1998): 409-27.

Howard, Maureen.  "On The House of Mirth."  Raritan 15 (1996): 23 pp.  28 Oct. 2002  <http://proxy.govst.edu:2069/WebZ/FTFETCH>.

Howe, Irving.  Edith Wharton, a Collection of Critical Essays.  Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962.

Lindberg, Gary H.  Edith Wharton and the Novel of Manners.  Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1975.

Lyde, Marilyn Jones.  Edith Wharton, Convention and Morality in the Work of a Novelist.  Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959.

Miller, Mandy.  Edith Wharton Page.  19 Nov. 2002    <http://www.Kutztown.edu/faculty/Reagan.Wharton.html>.

Pizer, Donald.  "The Naturalism of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth."  Twentieth Century Literature 41.2          (1995): 241-8.

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. (1905) New York: Signet,. 1998.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton Essay

- Nature verses nurture is an ongoing debate between people for centuries now. Some believe that a person is born with certain traits and characteristics that will remain true for the rest of their life. Others believe that every person is born into the world with a blank slate that can be mold into an image of whichever the parent desired it to be. In the case of Lily Bart, the protagonist in The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, the characterization which was placed upon her by Wharton made her eventual descent in society inevitable....   [tags: destiny, mirth's house, edith wharton]

Powerful Essays
1051 words (3 pages)

Lily's Choice in The House of Mirth Essay

- Lily's Choice in The House of Mirth         Near the beginning of The House of Mirth, Wharton establishes that Lily would not indeed have cared to marry a man who was merely rich: "she was secretly ashamed of her mothers crude passion for money" (38). Lily, like the affluent world she loves, has a strange relationship with money. She needs money to buy the type of life she has been raised to live, and her relative poverty makes her situation precarious. Unfortunately, Lily has not been trained to obtain money through a wide variety of methods....   [tags: House Mirth Essays]

Powerful Essays
2310 words (6.6 pages)

Lily as the Goddess Diana in The House of Mirth Essay

- Lily as the Goddess Diana in The House of Mirth        One of the tragedies in The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton is that Lily Bart is unable to marry Laurence Selden and thereby secure a safe position in society. Their relationship fluctuates from casual intimacy to outright love depending on how and where Selden perceives Lily. Selden sees a beautious quality in Lily Bart that is not present in any of the other women in the novel. This mysterious beauty that is so often alluded to, in addition to her attraction for the other men, is best understood when Lily is conceived of as the goddess Diana....   [tags: House Mirth Essays]

Powerful Essays
2081 words (5.9 pages)

Subjectivity in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth Essay

- Subjectivity in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth      Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth presents an interesting study of the social construction of subjectivity. The Victorian society which Wharton's characters inhabit is defined by a rigid structure of morals and manners in which one's identity is determined by apparent conformity with or transgression of social norms. What is conspicuous about this brand of social identification is its decidedly linguistic nature. In this context, behaviors themselves are rendered as text, and the incessant social appraisal in which the characters of the novel participate is a process of deciphering this script of behavior....   [tags: House Mirth Essays]

Powerful Essays
1712 words (4.9 pages)

Essay on Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth as Satirical Commentary on Society

-        Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth creates a subtle, ironic, and superbly crafted picture of the social operation of turn-of-the-century New York. In her harsh expression of community, she succeeds in portraying a world of calculation operating under the pretenses of politeness. The characters become competitors in the highly complex game of social positioning with an amorphous body of socially formed laws. Through her presentation of Lily Barton's ongoing struggles to "recover her footing-each time on a slightly lower level" in this game of skill, Wharton forces her audience to question this social order (272)....   [tags: House Mirth Essays Edith Wharton Essays]

Powerful Essays
2110 words (6 pages)

Essay about Character of Seldon in The House of Mirth By Edith Wharton

- Character of Seldon “He declared himself entirely at her disposal: the adventure struck him as diverting. As a spectator, he had always enjoyed Lily Bart; and his course lay so far out of her orbit that it amused him to be drawn for a moment into the sudden intimacy which her proposal implied.” Source: The House of Mirth, By Edith Wharton It should be noted that the role of Selden is highly important because it is a stock role in the novel of manners, and therefore helps in clearing and highlighting the unspoken conversation between people....   [tags: marriage, happiness, novel]

Powerful Essays
576 words (1.6 pages)

Edith Wharton: Exposing Aristocratic Society Essay

- 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)....   [tags: The House of Mirth]

Powerful Essays
1143 words (3.3 pages)

Essay about Realism in Wharton’s The House of Mirth

- In realist novels, the author gives readers a sense of the real world by avoiding the dramatic aspects of other genre of novels. The realist novels are more focused on the character(s) rather than the action and the plot by showing the character’s real complications of nature and motives in society. Therefore, “realist novels typically end in fall or failure, often as an ironic commentary on social values of self-improvement or success. A character may get what he or she desires, but be faced with the unexpected consequences of that desire” [Prompt]....   [tags: Realist Novels, Character Analysis]

Powerful Essays
1347 words (3.8 pages)

Objectification of Women in The House of Mirth Essay

- Objectification of Women in The House of Mirth        Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth is an affront to the false social values of fashionable New York society.  The heroine is Lily Bart, a woman who is destroyed by the very society that produces her.  Lily is well-born but poor.  The story traces the decline of Lily as she moves through a series of living residences, from houses to hotel lodgings.  Lily lives in a New York society where appearances are all.  Women have a decorative function in such an environment, and even her name, Lily, suggests she is a flower of femininity, i.e....   [tags: House Mirth Essays]

Powerful Essays
2117 words (6 pages)

Essay on Naturalism in The House of Mirth

- Naturalism in The House of Mirth             Challenging the strict deterministic confines of literary naturalism, which hold that "the human being is merely one phenomenon in a universe of material phenomena" (Gerard 418), Edith Wharton creates in The House of Mirth a novel which irrefutably presents the human creature as being subject to a naturalistic fate but which conveys a looming sense of hope that one may triumph over environment and circumstance if one possesses a certain strength of will or a simple faith in human possibility....   [tags: House Mirth Essays]

Powerful Essays
1488 words (4.3 pages)