The House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
As she did so, it struck her with a flash of irony that she was indebted to Gus Trenor for the means of buying them. (1.9.69)
This is the second time Lily pauses to reflect that the money she's using came from Gus Trenor. The other instance? When she donates money to Gerty's charity fund. It's interesting that these two decisions constitute polar opposites as far as Lily's morality is concerned.
But it is one thing to live comfortably with the abstract conception of poverty, another to be brought in contact with its human embodiments. Lily had never conceived of these victims of fate otherwise than in the mass. That the mass was composed of individual lives, innumerable separate centres of sensation, with her own eager reachings for pleasure, her own fierce revulsions from pain – that some of these bundles of feeling were clothed in shapes not so unlike her own, with eyes meant to look on gladness, and young lips shaped for love – this discovery gave Lily one of those sudden shocks of pity that sometimes decentralize a life. (1.14.50)
The wealth of Lily and the other women in her social circle is an ignorant one. These women have no conception of the universe outside of their protected and opulent world. This is a dangerous way to live, and leaves Lily completely unprepared for the challenges she faces in Book II.
"But things are not going as well as I expected," Mrs. Fisher frankly admitted. "It's all very well to say that every body with money can get into society; but it would be truer to say that NEARLY everybody can. And the London market is so glutted with new Americans that, to succeed there now, they must be either very clever or awfully queer. (2.1.31)
Mrs. Fisher is the novel's authority on the relationship between social status and cash. It's essentially her job to turn one into the other.