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The House of Mirth

The House of Mirth


by Edith Wharton

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Tragedy

Anticipation Stage

Lily isn't very happy with her life.

Lily feels unfulfilled. Her life is boring and she expects that it will get even more boring as it progresses. She looks to something better, and that something is Lawrence Selden.

Dream Stage

Lily sort of thinks about being with Selden

This isn't exactly your typical dream stage, since Lily never fully commits to a life with Selden. She holds back because she always remembers that Selden doesn't have enough money to keep her happy.

Frustration Stage

Lily can neither have her cake nor eat it.

At first, Lily was faced with a decision between being happy but "poor" with someone like Selden, or being miserable and rich with someone like Percy Gryce. As her social life begins crumbling at the hand of Gus Trenor and Bertha Dorset, Lily is stripped of both possibilities.

Nightmare Stage

Lily becomes a working girl.

Lily sinks further and further into poverty, and further down the social ladder, and finally to the working class. Then, she's fired from her job. Lily despairs and turns to chloral (a drug to help her sleep) for comfort.

Destruction or Death Wish Stage

Lily overdoses and dies.

Lily overdoses on her chloral just when Selden was ready to rescue her from her misery.

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