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Lily Bart of House of Mirth

Lily Bart research papers examine the fact that in The House of Mirth, author Edith Wharton reflects upon the lives of the elitist New York society of the early 1900’s.  Her heroine Lily Bart. Lily is known by the following characteristics:

  • Lily is the epitome of a single, fashionable upper/middle class New York socialite;
  • Lily's social world creates what is essentially an empty life
  • Lily's shallow perceptions focus on materialism above anything else.
  • Lily is a beautiful young woman, yet soulless and insensitive at the same time.

Lily Bart of House of MirthAlthough Lily certainly carries herself as a superior and at least an aesthetically pleasing being, her beauty and social status will only take her so far in life, as she soon finds out. As The House of Mirth progresses, it is clear that Lily has actually become a prisoner of her social environment. Eventually however, we begin to see Lily in a different light and as the novel culminates, Lily Bart is indeed a sympathetic and destroyed character.

Lily, an orphan, works with her beauty and the possibility of a large inheritance from her aunt to ensure that her social status is elevated to the highest level possible, and that her prospects for a husband span all the eligible and desirable men on the scene.  Being an agreeable socialite, as she must be in order to secure her position in society, requires that she maintain herself as a decorative object, an entertaining companion, a social secretary and the epitome of ingenue in the presence of likely suitors. Lily must secure a marriage that will provide for her social status and money; otherwise, she will not be able to maintain the social power or luxurious lifestyle that is so important to her.  Obtaining a suitable mate is Lily’s conquest, and seemingly the sole purpose of her existence. 

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