TheHouse of Mirth
by Edith Wharton captures the difficultiesthat Lily Bart undergoes as she tries to survive in the elite level.In this case, she seems to have financial problems, and she has theoption of being married to Percy Gryce or Simon Rosedale, who areboth wealthy. However, she seems to have fallen in love with LawrenceSelden, who is just a young and struggling lawyer that does not haveso much money. In the process, she encounters multiple problems thatmake her life a living hell, and she decides to commit suicide in theend. This essay shows how Wharton criticizes the wealthy peopleexpected women to seek richer husbands so that they can get money andmaintain a higher social position, but, Lily was able to overcomesuch obstacles, and that proves that her death was totally accidentaland not a suicide.
Wharton reveals how the society and class are essential parts indetermining how individuals interact and deal with their dailyactivities. In this case, people are focused on social climbing sothat they can reach the elite level. Others are struggling to stay inthe upper social class since their income is reducing at a higherrate and they need more opportunities to create income. Moreimportant, Simon Rosedale is one of the men that have recentlyacquired a vast amount of money (Wharton, 1994). However, he has veryfew friends in the elite level, and he believes that marrying one ofthe rich girls will help him in reaching where he wants. On the otherhand, Lilly is trying to exploit every approach that will help herretain most of the friends she currently has. In fact, she is forcedto work with Gus Trenor so that he can assist her in making moremoney (Wharton, 1994). She even relies on Aunt Julia’s inheritanceto survive the financial challenges that she is currently facing. Theentire experience proves that money is a critical aspect in ensuringone climbs the economic hierarchy in the society. The same money willalso facilitate the fall of a person in the social ladder. Lilly alsoundergoes the same dilemma, and she wonders whether to marry for loveor money because she still needs the two aspects. The wealth alsoseems to influence the social currency, which translates to the richfriends that will always stay with a person when any need arises.
The novel also criticized the freedom and the confinement that hasforced the members of the society to comply with certain standards.In this case, women are compelled to live based on specificguidelines that seem to be set by the patriarchy system. Forinstance, the women are obliged to rely on the men for income andfinancial support, and they are not expected to be independent(Stewart & Davies, 2000). Lily knows that his future lies on themen that want her hand in marriage. Hence, she does not struggle inensuring that she is financially stable. She believes that such tasksshould be handled by the men that are supposed to take care of theirwives (Wharton, 1994). The social determinism is an essential part ofthe society, and people are forced to align with the specificstandards that each gender is associated with. One is viewed as anoutcast when he or she engages in activities that should be handledwith the opposite gender. Any member of the social elite is alsoforced to comply with the self-imposed rules so that they can berecognized as a part of their family. Women are expected to marry sothat they can get enough income. Men are the ones that should workand provide the meals that the family wants. On the other hand, thesingle ladies are not expected to be closer to the married menbecause they can seduce them. For instance, Lawrence saw Lily comingout of Gus Trenor house in the night, and she thought that they werehaving an affair (Wharton, 1994). Bertha also accuses Lily ofseducing George Dorset, who is her husband (Wharton, 1994). Clearly,the novel focuses on criticizing such standards that seem toundermine the position of the women in the society in the long-run.
The movie on the same novel shows how the characters prefermaterialism while ignoring the morality associated with theirbehaviors. The characters seem to face a dilemma where they have tochoose between morality and money. In this case, Lily faces suchissues, and she wonders the particular approach that she will takewhile solving the specific challenges. More important, Lily seemsmore materialistic at the beginning of the novel, and she interactswith the wealthy people instead. However, she portrays moral maturitywhen she seems to ignore the interest from Simon Rosedale, who ismuch richer (Stewart & Davies, 2000). Instead, she decides thatLawrence Selden, a struggling young lawyer is a perfect choice forher. She believes that love is not about the money, but, ratherstaying with a person that loves her rather than use her. It is clearthat Rosedale wants to marry her so that he can get an opportunity tointeract with the elite people in the nation. The scenario questionshis commitment in the relationship and whether he loves Lily. Later,Lily is faced with a dilemma when Gus Trenor tries to sleep with herwith the assumption that she owes him money (Wharton, 1994). However,Lily decided that she will just pay him rather than having sex withhim so that she can repay the debt. The situations reveal how peopleare using money as a way of undermining the morality in the society.Lily undergoes transformation, and she is able to see the evil in thehigher social class, and she focuses on improving her morals. Forinstance, she does not expose the letters that could have proved theaffair that Bertha and Selden had. She believes that people shouldnot be controlled by money, and she is willing to lack money, but,comply with the ethical expectations.
The events in the novel criticize the women in the society and howthey are focused on determining their femininity based on thestandards that men have created. More important, it urges women to befinancially independent and ignore the social expectations that wantthem to rely on men. In this case, women are only supposed to lookpretty and protect the image of their marriages. Hence, they areexpected to avoid some of the scandals in the society that might givethem a bad name. It reveals that the men have created the patriarchalsystem that oppresses the women that are trying to survive onthemselves (Stewart & Davies, 2000). However, the same women arealso their own enemies since they keep placing each other down. Theyare expected to uplift and empower each other during such times, but,they have resorted to some unacceptable behaviors instead. Most ofthe characters are vicious to each other, and it is clear that themarried women hate the single ones being closer to their husbands.Bertha hates Lily because she thinks that she will take away herhusband. In reality, she is the one that is having affairs with theyounger men in the same society.
It is clear that Lily was treasured by her family and no one hatedher since Mrs. Bart was supportive and provided anything she wanted.For instance, the society favored most men and ignored what the womenwanted, and they could not even access education or even othercrucial opportunities in the society. However, Mrs. Bart reassuredher that she was beautiful and that will assist her in getting ahusband that will ensure she has everything she might want (Stewart &Davies, 2000). She ended up mastering the specific aspects such ascooking and dressing elegantly as a way of enhancing her beauty andwomanhood as well. The same technique was supposed to be instrumentalin retrieving the money that her family had lost. Most important,inheritance from Aunt Julia could have kept her going before shefound a proper way of getting more money. She treasured the beautyand saw the quality as a way out of poverty. In this case, they couldhave assisted her in reaching the higher social status (Stewart &Davies, 2000). However, the stress she was experiencing made thesituation much worse, and her beauty was also affected in theprocess. She had placed her future on the likelihood of getting arich husband, and the failure to do that could have amounted to moreproblems.
Lily was able to control her emotions and she experienced herstressful experiences maturely. In fact, she relied on morality inhandling most of the dilemmas, so it is shocking to assume that shekilled herself. For instance, she did not reveal the relationshipbetween Bertha and Selden even when Bertha accused her of having anaffair with her husband (Wharton, 1994). She was able to persuadeSelden into believing that she still loved him. In this case, sheknew that the material things will not provide the happiness she islooking for. She had even acquired her part of Aunt Julia’sinheritance and that assisted her in settling the debt she owed GusTrenor (Wharton, 1994). After paying him, he had fewer issues thatmight have bothered her mind. Clearly, Rosedale was unwilling tomarry her and she was till on speaking terms with Selden and thatmeant that she did not face any dilemma of picking a perfect husband.Based on the previous experiences, her life was on a right path, andshe did not have any dilemmas to deal with (Wharton, 1994). Hence, itis wrong to believe that Lily committed suicide since she had settledsome of the concerns that were bothering and her death was clearlyaccidental.
In conclusion, the novel shows that Lily’s death was accidental andshe had withstood a lot of challenges and handled stress maturely andkilling herself seemed a bit irrational. The author also criticizedthe upper social class that has its social expectations where othersare forced to keep up with their desires and ensures that they haveenough money. Lily portrays her maturity when she fails to exchangeher morality for the materialism that is evident among the eliteindividuals. Clearly, she did not let the stress to blind her frommaking rational choices. At the end, she had solved most of herconcerns and wanted to begin a new life. Hence, the thoughts ofsuicide are clearly wrong and her death seems accidental.
Stewart, O. (Producer) & Davies, T. (Director). (2000). TheHouse of Mirth. [Motion Picture]. United States of America: SonyPictures Classics.
Wharton, E. (1994).. New York: Bedford/St. Martin`s.