The House of Mirth
Society and Class Quotes Page 2
How we cite our quotes:
But now his love was her only hope, and as she sat alone with her wretchedness the thought of confiding in him became as seductive as the river's flow to the suicide. The first plunge would be terrible – but afterward, what blessedness might come! (1.15.49-50)
Even after her moral apotheosis, Lily still treats Selden as a tool, not as a human being. She doesn't deserve him – yet.
And I ain't talking to you as if you were – I presume I know the kind of talk that's expected under those circumstances. I'm confoundedly gone on you – that's about the size of it – and I'm just giving you a plain business statement of the consequences. (1.15.64)
Wharton uses variations in speech to distinguish between the socially elite and the outsiders. Rosedale isn't as eloquent or proper as a man like George Dorset or Lawrence Selden.
He would get on well enough if she'd let him alone; they like his slang and his brag and his blunders. But Louisa spoils it all by trying to repress him and put herself forward. If she'd be natural herself – fat and vulgar and bouncing – it would be all right; but as soon as she meets anybody smart she tries to be slender and queenly. She tried it with the Duchess of Beltshire and Lady Skiddaw, and they fled. I've done my best to make her see her mistake – I've said to her again and again: 'Just let yourself go, Louisa'; but she keeps up the humbug even with me – I believe she keeps on being queenly in her own room, with the door shut. (2.1.31)
For many, a ticket into society means conformity, deception, and self-delusion. What about for Lily Bart?