Study Guide

The House of Mirth Genre

By Edith Wharton

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Historical Fiction, Realism, Romance, Satire and Parody, Tragedy

House of Mirth is a great social and historical account of New York's elite in the late 1800s. Because Wharton grew up in the environment she's depicting, the portrait she paints is rather accurate (if rather scathing as well – hence the Satire and Parody). The "novel of manners" which we discuss in our "In A Nutshell" is actually a subset of the Realism genre; it relies on realistic accounts of realistic characters rather than allegory or metaphor, and draws its plot and action from everyday scenarios. We can account for both Romance and Tragedy by looking to Lily's tumultuous relationship with Selden; it's pretty much a doomed love affair from the start.

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