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Edith Wharton and House of Mirth

Posted by Sherry on 5/4/2004 in 1905, 20th Century History Project, Adult Fiction, General |

I finished reading The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I’m still trying to figure out what the title means. If you know, don’t tell me. I’d like to figure it out myself.

I found this information about Edith Wharton:
She did not go to school, but educated herself by reading in her father’s “gentleman’s library,” and was given lessons by a governess
Another homeschooled genius.

I liked the book very much although it was sad. I was reminded of a professor I had in college who said something to the effect that every time he read Romeo and Juliet he hoped against hope that somehow the story would turn out differently, that Romeo would arrive at the right time or that Juliet would wake up just a little sooner. In The House of Mirth, the main character, Lily Bart, is always just a little too late or a little too trusting or a little too scrupulous or a little too unsure of herself. She’s trapped in a society that pushes her toward a materialistic and loveless marriage of convenience, and she tries to fight against the pressure. However, she never fights hard enough or soon enough, and of course, it’s obvious from the beginning that the novel must end in tragedy. Romeo and Juliet, Lily and Selden, neither couple can live happily ever after. At least, Juliet knows she wants Romeo. They’re just “star-crossed lovers.” Lily Bart knows how to get what she wants; unfortunately, she never does figure out exactly what it is she wants. May we, unlike Lily, figure out what is really important in life before it’s too late.

1 Comment

  • Reader says:

    I believe reading in an introduction that the title for The House of Mirth was taken from a Bible verse. I looked it up:

    “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Ecclesiastes 7:4

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