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The House of Mirth

The House of Mirth


by Edith Wharton

 Table of Contents

The House of Mirth Themes

The House of Mirth Themes

Society and Class

Social climbing is the name of the game in this novel, which takes place in the elite circles of New York society during the very late 1800s. The cast of characters fall into distinct social sphere...


Money will take you fairly far in the elite social circles of New York in the late 1800s presented in House of Mirth, but only if you use a good chunk of it to buy the social services of all the ri...


Marriage is the duty and end-game for 29-year-old, strikingly beautiful Lily Bart, a single girl mingling with the social elite in New York in the late 1800s. Lily struggles with the novel's centra...


Beauty is an asset for main character Lily Bart, a 29-year-old woman on the hunt for a rich husband. If dating and marriage is akin to war, and courtship to a series of battle tactics, then beauty...

Freedom and Confinement

Time and time again in House of Mirth, society is presented as a "gilded cage." In New York at the tail end of the Victorian era, the members of the social elite find themselves confined by their o...

Respect and Reputation

The threat of scandal is an ever-present thundercloud in House of Mirth. Set among the upper-echelon of New York society in the late 1800s, the novel focuses on social goals, games, and disasters....


The House of Mirth presents an antithesis between money and morality. The richest characters, members of New York society's upper echelon, are petty and devoid of scruples, while those in the worki...

Women and Femininity

Gender roles are clearly established in House of Mirth. Men bring home the bacon, and women look pretty and keep tabs on the couple's social currency. Though they keep up good appearances, women in...

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