When a person reads a novel or short story they are looking for something that they can relate to, some similar experience that they share with the characters. Since the fall of man in the garden of Eden people have been experiencing terrible circumstances, some brought about through their own actions, other brought about simply through life, or fate. Since tragedy is so common among humanity, an author can create an immediate connection between the reader and the story through use of tragedy. Both The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton and “Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald use the main characters, Lily and Charlie, to portray a theme of tragedy brought about by fate, which is relatable to every person who has experienced loss in their life.
In The House of Mirth Lily Bart, the main character is a society miss at the mercy of the world that she lives in. Lily’s main problem is her lack of money and this problem ultimately leads to all the tragedy in her life. Lily’s lack money would not seem like a problem to many people today, because we all know several people who are living life to the fullest without many funds. But in Lily’s society one needs money in order to get a husband. Mary Balkun explained in her book that “Lily … live[s] in a world of country homes, dinner parties, and the theatre” all of which require the use of money to attend (73). Since Lily has no money she turns to George Dorset, the husband of Bertha Dorset, her friend. He aggress to help her gain money through the stock market, however, Lily does not realize that she is expected to give up something in return; her body. Because of her lack of money Lily is then forced into situations where she herself is in danger, such as when Mr. Dorset invites Lily over under the pretext of Lily meeting with Bertha. When Lily arrives Mr. Dorset accosts her and she barley escapes being raped. As terrible as this is it is not the only tragedy that Lily suffers.
Lily suffers another tragedy when she “refuses to be owned on the terms set by others; her rejection of the mores of her society threatens to expose the duplicity and lack of authenticity in others, and this ultimately results in her destruction” according to Mary Balkun. Edith Wharton herself described Lil as being “the victim of the civilization which had produced her” (5). Lily’s only chance of happiness is if she can maneuver the maze of society, but all of her “friends” are watching and waiting for her to fail. When others mistake Lily for having an affair with Mr. Dorset her future is given a quick death. According to Judy Simmons Lily lives in “a society which iconize fashion adherence and which is merciless in its power to create and to destroy reputations overnight” which is exactly what happens to Lily (442).
But Lily refuses to accept her fate on the outskirts of society; instead she fights to win back the reputation she lost. Mary Balkan claims that “Lily’s very digressions from the norms-her refusal to accept...