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Irony in The House of Mirth

Research papers on literary elements such as irony are common for the writers at Paper Masters. Edith Wharton's works are popular in American Literature courses. Wharton is an excellent example of an American writer that uses irony frequently in her stories, especially in The House of Mirth.

Irony in The House of Mirth research papers show that the deepest sense of irony begins upon Lily’s death, when Lawrence Selden is devastated as he kneels next to her and claims that they should have eventually found each other.  Fairly aloof and composed throughout the novel, Selden is finally baring his true feelings.  No longer are his feelings ambiguous, and we’re given a glimpse of vulnerability and honesty. Regardless of what we believe, the ending, both of Lily’s life and the novel, is dreadfully ironic for the following reasons:

  • If Lily had used the letters to blackmail Bertha Dorset, she would have ended up back in the same place she was before--a wealthy socialite, but dead and empty inside. 
  • Lily and Selden would most likely have married

Her reluctance and subsequent refusal to use the letters, although resulting in a tragedy, gives some substance to her character.  As The House of Mirth nears its end, we are rooting for Lily, hoping that she will do what it takes to ensure her survival.  However, we are also witnessing a changed woman. Gone are the meaningless outings of nothing more than a socialite hoping beyond hope to use her charm to secure a very wealthy husband. Lily has redeemed herself as a human being. Through her tragic ending, she has gained a sense of morality. And although her story is indeed a tragic one, we are able to see Lily Bart as more of a complete and human person, whereas before she was more of an attractive yet empty shell.

Adding to the ironic ending is the belief that Lily and Selden would have joined in matrimony or another kind of union one day. As The House of Mirth concludes, it seems that Lily’s only chance in life, at least in regaining her old life, would have been to blackmail Bertha with the letters. 

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