Lily Bart lived in the upper part of New York society. She loves nice things and extravagance. However, throughout the House of Mirth Lily plays a game. She wants to be virtuous, stay in the social circle, and have the money to keep up with the demands of her so called friends. She involves herself so much into the social life she loses all chance of gaining her riches virtuously or through true love. She misses her chances inevitably: from Percy to her dear aunt to her indecisiveness of men and marriage. In the end she cannot get what she believes is satisfactory to her so she drags herself into infinite slumber.
Edith Wharton wrote the House of Mirth during the Realist Movement. Realism in Wharton's writing is influenced by Darwinism. When rumors spread of Lily and George’s conquests, Lily’s reputation is smashed. Even though she survived through being broke, gossip stops her existence. The past will always haunt her. When Lily decides to keep her morals intact and not smash George’s wife Bertha back by exposing Bertha’s escapades with the man Lily fancies, the readers know she is doomed to unhappiness.
More than Darwinism, Wharton’s writing correlates with Lamarkism, which is quite interesting in itself. Wharton justifies Lily’s death, because in her final moments of life Lily recognizes that she has never had "any real relation to life" (248). In Lily's epiphany, Wharton exposes Lily's separation from the superior life of the city that she once desired and the hand she is dealt. Through Lily, Wharton criticizes the traditional paths of this society and the disillusion of happiness and the inevitable fall and destruction of Lily’s society.
Wharton blames New York society for Lily's fate. Lily is not destroyed by the culture such as economic, social, intellectual, or sexual. Her fate is diminished by her inability to keep herself intact within that culture of exchange, through lies, betrayals, failure, and even poverty and the extreme of social exclusion such as Lily’s ability to blackmail Bertha Dorset or to remain in debt to Gus Trenor. Lily only succumbs to darkness after her vision of divine existence is taken away.
As she travels to the house of a lower class citizen and sees their lifestyle, she knows if she stays alive, she’s doomed to this life. She tries to work like a lower class person making hats for the ones who use to be her friends. She fails miserably. Lily cannot succumb to a less-than fancy life. She comes to find out beauty cannot get you everywhere. In all actuality, she is outcast from the lower class too. As she sews jewels on hats at Regina’s millinery, she is like “a foreigner” (232). In all actuality, she does not have a place to fit into on Earth, so of course she would leave the world she cannot fit into.
Wharton tries to leave Lily’s death in a way that could be seen as accidental. This idea shows some readers of her stupidity. She is ditsy. Lily is not equipped in making logical moves to get out of debt like...