Study Guide

The House of Mirth Respect and Reputation

By Edith Wharton

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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. Reputation is a particularly precarious balancing act for 29-year-old, still unmarried Lily Bart, who must carefully guard her public image in the hopes of winning a rich husband. Problems of money and boredom crop up, however, and Lily's interactions with married men and eligible bachelors to quell these concerns leave her on dangerous ground.

Questions About Respect and Reputation

  1. Is Lily deceiving herself about the morality involved in her transactions with Gus Trenor?
  2. Who struggles more with reputation – Lily or Rosedale?
  3. Why is it that men like Lawrence Selden never seem to have to worry about their reputation? After all, he had an affair with a married woman, but no one seems concerned that his public image is in jeopardy.

Chew on This

Scandal is more threatening than financial ruin in House of Mirth.

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