The House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
She was smaller and thinner than Lily Bart, with a restless pliability of pose, as if she could have been crumpled up and run through a ring, like the sinuous draperies she affected. Her small pale face seemed the mere setting of a pair of dark exaggerated eyes, of which the visionary gaze contrasted curiously with her self-assertive tone and gestures; so that, as one of her friends observed, she was like a disembodied spirit who took up a great deal of room. (1.2.38)
Being a woman automatically gives you some control in this novel; the men, on the other hand, have to work harder for social power.
Lily was therefore able to observe Mrs. Dorset also, and by carrying her glance a few feet farther, to set up a rapid comparison between Lawrence Selden and Mr. Gryce. It was that comparison which was her undoing. (1.5.10)
Her undoing, or her salvation? By what rubric are we to judge Lily's decision of Selden over Gryce?
She had always hated her room at Mrs. Peniston's – its ugliness, its impersonality, the fact that nothing in it was really hers. (1.13.78)
Lines like this one reveal Lily's true desire – to be independent. But as the second half of the novel confirms, she is physically incapable of leading the life she desires.