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 right people. The extravagant displays of wealth in this novel should shock and amaze you; in House of Mirth, poverty is having only a few servants in your mansion at a time. Or, at least, that's what society's elite consider to be poverty. Millionaires aside, the novel also glimpses into the world of the working class, who earn less in a year than the rich throw away as dinner scraps.
In her early attempts to marry, Lily seeks not only money, but the thrill of power over her husband.