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The House of Mirth (1905)

por Edith Wharton

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

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9,693200788 (4.02)1 / 784
Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

The House of Mirth is an uncompromising depiction of 19th-century New York society. Lily Bart is a society lady who is unwilling to marry for love, but equally unwilling to marry as society dictates. She sabotages every advantageous opportunity she receives, until her society friends begin to hasten her downfall for their own ends.

.… (mais)
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I've never read a story where the protagonist was so self-centered and shallow yet so likable. And I've never read a story where money and partying meant so much to the protagonist, aspirations that are so foreign to myself, yet I still felt sympathy for her, and her misfortunes felt so real and callous.

This might be described as a story about New York, high society, partying, traveling, love, scandals, ambition, or money. But most of all this is a story ultimately about Miss Lily Bart's loneliness, and it succeeds in portraying this loneliness so well that I have to recommend it wholeheartedly. ( )
  HellCold | Feb 22, 2024 |
A woman in Lily Bart's world had only two options: marriage or death.

Lily was special -- primed to marry well, to be "decorative" and "ornamental," particularly for her exquisite beauty, and conditioned to avoid a "dingy" life. Except, Lily struggled to make decisions and had missed a few earlier opportunities to marry well. Now she was closer to being beyond marriageable age.

Unfortunately, Lily had expensive taste and was obsessed with money; and she was poor, sustained only by the pity of a wealthy aunt. She complained that men had a choice to marry or remain single, but women did not. If women were to appear successful and rich, they must marry into "partnership" with a successful man. Therefore, Lily was holding out for that unique man who was successful, well-off, and could also bring her happiness. But who?

Selden was a good friend to Lily, but he was not wealthy, and Lily knew he could never financially satisfy her thirst to keep up with high society. And yet, she considered him the "richest man she had ever met." He was free from the restraints of society.

Regrettably, high society was exhausting because there were so many rules that women had to obey, and many rules were hypocritical. Lily also felt the pressure to gamble because that is what women in her circle were expected to do. Lily's gambling addiction later cost her everything.

Lily frustrated me

Up to this point, Lily had frustrated me. She was malleable, indecisive, and foolish. And while I added up all of the lies she had told to cover her wretched lifestyle or to save herself from mortification, she showed a glimmer of noble character. Lily had received evidence that a married woman in her circle of acquaintances had pursued a romantic affair with Selden through letters. But instead of confronting either party, she kept the information to herself, specifically to protect her good friend; however, it could have been used to blackmail the wicked married woman who intentionally singled out Lily, took advantage of her, and finally, out of jealousy, sabotaged her reputation with rumors and, thus, isolated her from society.

It seemed everyone and everything had turned against Lily. She did not belong to that harsh "other world." Selden saw this clearly. He loved her and wanted to rescue her from it, but he could not help her. She was all alone.
That's Lily all over, you know: she works like a slave preparing the ground and sowing her seed; but the day she ought to be reaping the harvest she oversleeps herself or goes off on a picnic.
One of my own marginal notes stated: Lily would have married a rich prince, but self-sabotage is always her end. I don't think Lily wants to be married after all.

This story was hardly over when Lily's worldly aunt died of humiliation. She was outraged with her niece because of the rumors she had heard about Lily's "folly" and, therefore, decreased her legacy, leaving her in an extremely precarious circumstance. Lily had expected to pay off her debt with the inheritance, but now it could hardly be enough.

Lily was desperate and thought about a prosperous man who once admired and sought to marry her. She had declined because she knew she would have settled. Since circumstances had changed, she reconsidered marriage with him; however, he was no longer interested because her reputation had been tarnished. Yet, he knew about the damaging letters and the affairs of that particular woman who had ruined Lily, and he encouraged Lily to come out with the truth -- repairing her own reputation and "making her marriageable again." But because of her noble courage, she would not drag Selden's name through the mud.

Lily salvages my opinion of herself

By Book Two, Chapter Eight, I wrote: "Lily is a bigger person (even flawed) than all of us." She had declined in society, and yet, she refused to compromise her convictions. Not only was she alone -- she was invisible.
Hitherto her intermittent impulses of resistance had sufficed to maintain her self-respect.
Lily eventually resided at a boarding house and worked as a laborer, until that ended. And like Madame Bovary, she resorted to drugs to help her sleeplessness.

Reynolds: Mrs. Lloyd, 1775-76

Lily learned a lesson too late

In the final pages, Lily learned one simple lesson. She met a young working-girl whom she had once helped. The girl had married now and was a mother, and Lily had the opportunity to witness the "central truth of existence:" this young family was built in poverty, with faith and courage. They did not have the financial security of high society, but they were free to love each other and be happy.

In the end, she remained true to her word, and when her aunt's cheque arrived, she paid off all of her debts. She could have been happy with Selden, but she made her choice. This was the end for Lily. She will never have her life back.

A little soapbox

Though the demise of Lily is tragic, much of it was self-imposed. She complained about what it cost for [her] "to live on the rich":
--it's a privilege we have to pay for! We eat their dinners and drink their wine, and smoke their cigarettes, and use their carriages and their opera-boxes and their private cares -- yes, but there's a tax to pay on every one of those luxuries...the girl pays it by tips and cards too -- oh, yes, I've had to take up bridge again -- and by going to the best dress-makers, and having just the right dress for every occasion, and always keeping herself fresh and exquisite and amusing!
For Lily, her greatest fear was poverty; but it should have been fear of facing an angry God. I know that was not the point of the story, but I see it this way: man's problems are not caused by the discrepancy between rich and poor; man's problems are caused by his disobedience toward God and doing everything his own way. And that is why Lily was lost, indecisive, and obsessed with wealth. All of those people were lost because they lived life their way -- with gossip, adultery, covetousness, self-preservation, greed, materialism, lying, slothfulness, self-worship -- we know our ways are self-destructive; but there is a better way.


The House of Mirth is an intriguing and calculating story - never a dull chapter. The characters are believable, even as caricatures of society. And Edith Wharton is an exceptionally mature writer. She knows the human heart thoroughly and, I'm afraid, does not exaggerate or hide any rotten detail at all.

This is my second read of House of Mirth, and on some pages, I ran out of room in the margins to add any new notes.

If you have only considered reading House of Mirth or any other Edith Wharton, what are you waiting for? Do it now. You will not regret it. ( )
  GRLopez | Feb 1, 2024 |
My favorite of all her novels. ( )
  GigiB50 | Dec 18, 2023 |
I was completely surprised by this novel. I expected drudgery like so many other classics I've read lately. This was amazing.

It started out cheery enough, yet I knew it was a tragedy, so I purposely did not attach myself to any characters. As things started unraveling for Lily, I got drawn in to the upcoming spiral of her life. I was even reading along with a friend who finished before me and she said she was very sad by the ending. I laughed at her for being so easily swept up into liking characters we knew would have some tragedy.

As I read the final chapters, I was so impressed with how Edith Wharton could spin a tale, describe thoughts and feelings, and lead us into eventual despair right along with Lily. Her writing made me either nod my head in feeling like she's described some of my own feelings, or pondering how well she's described things I've never felt. And by the end, I felt such sadness, it was a literal pain in my chest. Damn her. I was invested without even realizing it.

So amazing in character development, in getting the reader to understand the plight of Lily, the tough decisions she had to make and just didn't, the way the spins of others had such an effect on her own control of her circumstances, and the tragic end.

Just a very good read. May be in my top 3. ( )
  MahanaU | Nov 21, 2023 |
4.5 Stars. First off, a sort of public service announcement for those who are new to classics, I learned the hard way a long time ago that “introductions” in classics are often littered with spoilers as is the case with the Anna Quindlen penned introduction in my copy of this one, so unless you enjoy learning every major plot point ahead of time, do yourself a favor and wait until after you read the story to read the introductions. It would be nice if publishers would ever do the readers a favor and just put these things at the back of the book where they belong.

The House of Mirth moves at a relatively slow pace, dialogue is minimal, it’s definitely more character focused than plot driven, still it rarely felt tedious and does have some page turning moments. Like most classics, it’s probably best to reach for this when you’re in a patient mood, when you feel more like taking your time rather than breezing through something.

Although this was written near the start of the 1800’s, in many ways the world of this story doesn’t feel as foreign or distant as you might imagine, social climbing in New York society back then doesn’t read all that different from someone clamoring for likes and follows, putting on a facade or living above their means in order to present a certain image, and we’re certainly also in an era where one misstep, or even the whisper of a misstep, whether you’re proven truly guilty of it or not can send your life into a tailspin. This is one of those books that while it takes place in a specific time period, it winds up feeling somewhat timeless thanks to how in tune the author is with how human beings tick, everyone in this story is recognizable, a person who could as believably exist now as then.

Initially, it’s tempting to write off Lily Bart as a one-dimensional socialite gold-digger archetype, the sort of person who I avoid watching on reality shows, but the fuller the picture I had of her, the more interesting she became psychologically and by the end I had came around to caring for her, too. If you want to read a female character full of complexities and contradictions, you need to meet Lily Bart, she’s can be appalling yet her moral fiber will surprise you, she’s both naive and conniving, and she’s prone to self-sabotage thanks to the tug of war inside her, torn between the material life she’s been raised to covet and a type of freedom that isn’t really available to the women who lived that lifestyle at that time.

While it was easier to like secondary characters Gerty and Nettie, I suspect Lily Bart is someone who will linger in my mind for a long time, particularly those final scenes with her. ( )
  SJGirl | Oct 23, 2023 |
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» Adicionar outros autores (129 possíveis)

Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Wharton, Edithautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Aman-Jean, EdmondArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Bawden, NinaIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Beer, JanetEditorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Bordwin, GabrielleDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Bron, EleanorNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Brookner, AnitaIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Carabine, KeithEditorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Caruso, BarbaraNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Cheshire, GerardContribuidorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Fields, AnnaNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Lewis, R. W. B.Introduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
McCaddon, WandaNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Pirè, LucianaTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Wenzell, A. B.Ilustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

The House of Mirth is an uncompromising depiction of 19th-century New York society. Lily Bart is a society lady who is unwilling to marry for love, but equally unwilling to marry as society dictates. She sabotages every advantageous opportunity she receives, until her society friends begin to hasten her downfall for their own ends.


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