The House Of Mirth

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View all Google Scholar citations for this chapter. What a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low and horribly cruel works of nature! It will soon be ninety years since Edith Wharton made her agreement with Scribner's Magazine to finish, and publish in serial form, a work which she had found troubling. The House of Mirth is a novel of New York society, the world she never completely discarded, though she declared she had given it up.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Wharton proceeded to deal it out to a society she understood to be a narrow slice of the American scene. From Lawrence Selden's opening encounter with Miss Lily Bart in Grand Central Station, we anticipate that the novel will occupy the familiar territory of custom and constraint that amused and angered Wharton. How nice of you to come to my rescue! Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

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Rebuilding The House of Mirth: A Blog for Edith Wharton's Birthday

Literary critic Elizabeth Hardwick writes in her introduction to the Modern Library edition of the novel that Wharton exposes "the best and the richest society of New York" to be "pimps cruising in Cadillacs. The novel firmly established Edith Wharton as a serious writer, and paved the way for later novels, including The Age of Innocence , for which she received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Wharton was the first woman to receive this award.


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House of Mirth was also seminal as an early novel in a genre of literature called "The Novel of Manners. Wharton was among writers like Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh in pioneering this genre. Let us ask you a question.

This Is Where Edith Wharton Wrote The House Of Mirth

When you come across a book written a hundred years ago, and you realize that all the ridiculous drama of cliques, and popularity, and gossip was just as middle school then as it is now, is it reassuring or kind of depressing? Yeah, we don't know either. Still, the easy comparison makes The House of Mirth way relevant.

It's impossible to watch Lily Bart's star fall and her popular circle ditch her in crueler and crueler ways without immediately flashing to your personal own high school nightmare. Not only have we all been there, but we have also all been there on both sides of the ugliness, as the people diving into loserdom, and as the onlookers doing nothing to stop them.

That, friends, is the genius of The House of Mirth. Sure, the stakes are a little over the top and the ending goes for broke with the melodrama, but the book paints a totally convincing picture of the way social life is organized and apparently has always been organized around vague and unconfirmed gossip, and the desire to just do whatever everyone else is doing.

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What's amazing is just how unchanged the whole thing is—particularly the way Wharton shows friends abandoning Lily like the proverbial rats leaving the proverbial sinking ship. So, what do you think?


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