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House of Mirth

In Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, highborn Lily Bart learns early on in life from her mother to appreciate those things money can buy. As the story progresses however, Lily finds herself without the money and prestige she learned to expect as a child. To make up for this, she attempts to find a wealthy husband to give her back the lifestyle she is accustomed to.

House of Mirth

Lily shows her preference for material belongings and a high social status throughout the story. In this regard, she viewed the European culture as far above that of the American culture. Although Lily is an American, she attempts to deny this several times during the course of the story. For instance, according to the narrator Lily would have preferred to marry and “English nobleman” or even an “Italian prince” rather than a man from America.

At another point in the story Lily notes that her friends houses are built resembling European qualities, such as Mrs. Bry’s house based on the French Trianon at Versailles and the Trenor house based on Corinthian design. Lily further proves her preference for European lifestyles and customs by refusing to make a decision on marrying Simon Rosedale, preferring instead to cruise the Mediterranean with the Dorsets’. Therefore, Lily is a reflection of the times she lived in, in that for many, the American way of doing things was still far behind the distinguished and highly socialized lifestyles of many Europeans.

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