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The House Of Mirth By Edith Wharton

1325 words - 6 pages

Nature verses nurture is an ongoing debate between people for centuries now. Some believe that a person is born with certain traits and characteristics that will remain true for the rest of their life. Others believe that every person is born into the world with a blank slate that can be mold into an image of whichever the parent desired it to be. In the case of Lily Bart, the protagonist in The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, the characterization which was placed upon her by Wharton made her eventual descent in society inevitable. Her upbringing, indecisiveness, and morality do not allow her to seize the opportunities for marriage which ultimately ended in her death at the end of the novel.
Lily Bart’s background from a modest family sets the foundation for her values and goals in life. Her upbringing is an important characterization device that the author uses. Wharton describes Lily’s household as a place in which “no one ever dined at home unless there was ‘company’” (32). In this setting, Wharton shows that the house is greatly rule by the need for appearances. While Lily’s mother is vigorous in her effort to save money, there never seem to be enough money. Even so, Wharton shows that the upbringing under the influence of her mother lead Lily to develops a taste for splendor and distaste for dinginess: “…Lily imbibed the idea that if people lived like pigs it was from choice, and through the lack of any proper standard of conduct. This gave her a sense of reflected superiority, and she did not need Mrs. Bart’s comments on the family frumps and misers to foster her naturally lively taste for splendour” (34). This desire for splendor ultimately led to her downfall because she is unable to choose between her desire and her feeling for Lawrence Selden in the end. Another important influence from Lily’s upbringing came from the treatment of her father. Wharton describes him in the novel as an insignificant figure in Lily’s life: “…for the most part he was never mentioned or though of till his patient stooping figure presented itself on the New York dock as a buffer between the magnitude of his wife’s luggage and the restrictions of the Americans custom-house” (33). Since her father serves only as a money-maker within the family, Lily also tries to model her husband search based on this example that her father set. From the way in which Wharton creates Lily’s family, it was inevitable for Lily to fail in her search of money and love. From the pressure of her mother and the role that her father played in her life, Lily is push onto a path of destruction.
Lily Bart’s name is a careful choice made by Edith Wharton. Lily is the name of a flower; in this way, Lily symbolizes a flower. A flower, with its beauty and strong fragrance is able to attract bees like how Lily’s beauty and personality is able to attract men: “The noble buoyancy of her attitude, its suggestion of soaring grace, revealed the touch of poetry of her beauty” (144). However,...

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