House of Mirth Notes


I made some notes includning a lot of quotes on 'The House of Mirth' for English exam and thought it might be helpful to share them with you guys.

There are multiple spelling mistakes and some of the ideas may not make sense to some people as a lot of it was just random thoughts and ideas.

Hope it's helpful though.


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  • Created by: robefe
  • Created on: 03-06-16 17:07
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House of Mirth: Key Quotes
Selden: `From everything ­ from money, Selden is idealistic not realistic ­ IRONY
from poverty, from ease and anxiety, Selden does not crave money yet wants it
from all material accidents. To keep a kind so that he can help her.
of republic of the spirt ­ that's what I call
success'. (pg 75) Selden remains `amphibious', `preserved a
certain social detachment' between high
`She would not indeed have cared to society and how he wishes to live ­
marry a man who was merely rich: she compare with Lily who is trapped: `the
was secretly ashamed of her mother's links of her bracelet seemed like manacles
crude passion for money'. (pg 41) chaining her to her fate'.
Irony = that she is not trapped and
is acutely aware of this: `How
alluring the world outside the cage
appeared to Lily, as she heard its
door clang on her! In reality, as she
knew, the door never clanged'.
Selden: `The only way I can help you is by Here Selden half professes his love to Lily.
loving you'. (pg 149) Admission that he is not wealthy ­ leaves
Lily with a choice. Running quote
`What a miserable thing it is to be a throughout the play.
woman'. (pg 11)
Link this to a later quote: `I have never
forgotten the things you said to me... they
have helped me, and kept me from
mistakes; kept me from really becoming
what many people have thought me'. (pg

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She didn't not weep easily, and the long This a brief moment where Lily reveals
habit of selfcontrol reasserted itself, her true emotions to Selden. It is one of
though she was too tremulous to speak'. the few times that Lily is lost for words ­
(pg 3226) shows that she has been denying herself
her emotions + what she really desires.…read more

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Selden spots this personality trait: `You
be wasted'. are an artist and I happen to be the bit of
colour you are using today'.
`To his wife he no longer counted: he had Women seem to have control IRONIC that
become extinct when he ceased to fulfil Lily does not.
his purpose'. DARWINISM
`She began to cut pages of a novel,
tranquilly studying her prey through Here Lily is presented as a predator,
downcast lashes while she organised a manipulative
method of attack'.…read more

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Lily also has other reasons to seek Again here Lily does not seize the
revenge on Bertha: `he's telling everybody opportunity that she is presented with.
that you and Dorset came back alone Cause of her downfall + the reason
after midnight'. why Rosedale will no longer marry
her.…read more

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To attempt to bring her into active
relation with life was like tugging at a
piece of furniture which has been screwed
to the floor'.
Key Themes:
Darwinism + changing society:
1. Wharton has a keen interest in the `origin of species'. Those who
cannot keep up with the changing society become extinct. E.g
Mrs Peniston belongs on the old and refuses to change the new
2.…read more

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Lily is in constant need of being rescued ­ Rosedale, Selden and
George Dorset and to an extent Gus Trenor offer her some form
of hope or rescue. Yet Lily is always waiting for a better offer.
2. Lily is also often alienated from society but not out of choice
unlike with Selden: `she lingered on the broad stairway, looking
down into the hall below, where the last cardplayers were
grouped about the tray of tall glasses'.
3.…read more

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In America's Gilded Age (between 1876 and 1901, approximately), the
rich got much richer, and the poor got much poorer. It was a time of
great industrial expansion in the United States and a time when the
stock market was doing very well. Great cities such as New York
became worlds of extremes, where on one block lived millionaires in
mansions and on another block lived immigrant families in tenements.
Wharton was brought up in the upperclass society and was therefore
familiar with it.…read more

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Wharton's writing is particularly influenced by Darwinism, best
described as the survivalofthefittest concept. Applied to literature
concerning human society, this means an interest in creating portrayals
of society and human interaction governed by the principle that only
some members of society are cut out for success, while others are
doomed to failure and extinction.…read more



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