Edith Wharton’s ‘The House of Mirth’ closely examines relationships, desire for personal autonomy and material success outside the boundaries or rules of the social world.
In The House of Mirth, Lily Bart, the protagonist, seeking a luxurious life in the high society is torn between wealth and marriage and is willing to go the mile to achieve her goal. In The Great Gatsby, Daisy is also after money and luxury, and uses Gatsby to achieve her ambitious pursuit. On closer observation, one cannot but think that the novel, ‘The Great Gatsby,’ and ‘The House of Mirth,’ was written to distinguish class from aristocracy. It looks at the lifestyle of the wealthy society; how the new set of millionaires of the 1920s differed from and related to the old aristocracy of the nation’s rich and famous.
Questions: What did ‘I’ll take risks,” mean, when Lily Bart uttered these words? Was she successful in the end in achieving her desired goals? What does the story tell its audience?
A. The characters of Daisy from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Lily, from Wharton’s The House of Mirth, are introduced in a similar fashion. .
Supporting Example: “Selden, a young bachelor, spots Lily Bart at the train station and wonders what she is doing there. He starts to walk past her and she greets him.”
B. The high-class always believed in having parties, and this is evident in the two books.From the Text: “I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited—they went there.”Supporting Example: “Lily woke up the next morning to find a note inviting her to help Mrs. Trenor with invitations. She reluctantly goes to help her hostess and listens while Mrs. Trenor discusses her various guests and comments on them.”C. After having shown their love and interest in their friends, both, Daisy and Lily show their indifferences to the people they care. . From the Text: “Who is Tom?” she asked innocently. This was how she answered Nick, who wanted Daisy to come home alone on the request from Gatsby.
Supporting Example: “Percy Gryce now fully interested in Lily, wakes up early the next morning and prepares to go to church. He is joined by the Wetheralls in the carriage, but Lily fails to show up”
Edith Wharton’s ‘The House of Mirth’, very much like Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, is about lifestyle of the aristocracy, and revolves around the two women who try to grow from rags to riches by getting involved with the wealthy people. Both the books combine the themes of risk-taking, societal parties, and their life-style, thereby exposing the randomness and indeterminacy that value systems. Both the books end in tragedy, as Lily, in search of happiness succumbs to it, while Daisy is party to the demise of Jay Gatsby in her quest for wealth and fame.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Hayes Barton Press, ISBN 1593774419 p. 7 -
Shinbrot, Victoria, (2012), Risk and Subversion in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Orbis Litterarum, ISSN 0105-7510, 02/2012, DOI:10.1111/j.1600-0730.2011.01043.x Volume 67, Issue 1, pp. 39 - 60