House of Mirth Research Proposal

Pages: 3 (1014 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

House of Mirth -- by Edith Wharton

In the novel The House of Mirth Lily Bart actually wished to marry someone for love, but she felt pressure from society and was taught by her family to search for and marry a man of wealth. Hence, she was trapped, imprisoned in a way, in a world that was not the real one she hoped for.

Why create a character like Lily Bart? The views and values of Wharton -- largely in response to the how New York City people lived and what they believed before and around the turn of the 20th Century -- help the reader to see why Lily Bart was created to do the things she did in the novel. English professor Benjamin D. Carson (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) writes in the journal Women's Studies (2003) that readers should be aware that although Wharton was "undoubtedly of the 'ruling class' she was not unaware of the constructedness of Woman and of gender (and gender roles)" (Carson, 698). Wharton, in creating Lily Bart, was not so "blinded by…myopic aristocratic ideology that she could not see the charade women were expected to act out" (italics are Carson's) (Carson, 698).

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On page 699 of his long critical essay, Carson writes that Wharton was actually attacking the "malignant process" (of how women were supposed to act, and how they were trained, as Lily Bart was, to seek wealth and the good life) and what Carson calls the "consciousness of oppression" by Wharton's exposure of New York society's "insidious nature" (Carson, 699). There seemed nothing "insidious" about Lily's lovely physical appearance on page 6, although it was clearly a manipulated beauty, largely her mother's doing. Wharton's description of Lily and her friend Selden strolling north on Madison Avenue is telling: "[Selden] was aware that the qualities distinguishing her from the herd of her sex were chiefly external" (Wharton p. 6).

Research Proposal on House of Mirth Assignment

Selden asks Lily (p. 11), "Isn't marriage your vocation? Isn't it what you're all brought up for?" Lily sighed and answered, "I suppose so. What else is there?" Did she say that in jest? Reading between the lines one discovers Lily is just putting forth a ruse, because she really does want to marry someone she truly loves. She really would like to escape the bondage, if you will, of being something someone else created. When she chats with Selden about Selden's cousin Gerty Farish (Wharton p. 9), who lives in a "horrid little place" with "no maid" and "such queer things to eat," Lily's desire to be herself rather than the creation of her mother comes out. "It must be pure bliss to arrange the furniture just as one likes," Lily told Selden. She went on, revealing her desire to be her own person: "…She likes being good and I like being happy. And besides, she is free and I am not" (Wharton p. 9). If there is one revealing passage about Lily's desire to break free and find a man she would be comfortable with in a world of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "House of Mirth" Research Proposal in a Bibliography:

APA Style

House of Mirth.  (2009, May 15).  Retrieved June 5, 2020, from

MLA Format

"House of Mirth."  15 May 2009.  Web.  5 June 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"House of Mirth."  May 15, 2009.  Accessed June 5, 2020.