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Quotes

Quote #4

"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 over-sleeps herself or goes off on a picnic."

Mrs. Fisher paused and looked reflectively at the deep shimmer of sea between the cactus-flowers. "Sometimes," she added, "I think it's just flightiness – and sometimes I think it's because, at heart, she despises the things she's trying for. And it's the difficulty of deciding that makes her such an interesting study." (2.1.32-3)

Sometimes we think Mrs. Fisher understands Lily better than any other character in the novel….

Quote #5

To Selden's exasperated observation she was only too completely alive to them. She was "perfect" to every one: subservient to Bertha's anxious predominance, good-naturedly watchful of Dorset's moods, brightly companionable to Silverton and Dacey. (2.1.43)

Selden is frustrated to recognize that Lily willingly makes herself into a tool for other people to use. She has no independent entity; she only exists through other people's eyes, to perform tasks or play roles. That's why the novel begins with the sight of Lily through Selden's eyes….

Quote #6

Lord Hubert had promised his help, with the readiness on which she could always count: it was his only way of ever reminding her that he had once been ready to do so much more for her. (2.2.30)

Wharton hints at yet another wasted marriage opportunity in Lily's past. It's clear that Lily was conflicted about her future long before we joined her story at the age of 29.

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