The beautiful, much-desired Lily Bart has been raised to be one of the perfect wives of the wealthy upper class, but her spark of character and independent drive prevents her from becoming one of the many women who will succeed in those circles. Though her desire for a comfortable life means that she cannot marry for love without money, her resistance to the rules of the social elite endangers her many marriage proposals. As Lily spirals down into debt and dishonor, her story takes on the resonance of classic tragedy. One of Wharton's most bracing and nuanced portraits of the life of women in a hostile, highly ordered world, The House of Mirth exposes the truths about American high society that its denizens most wished to deny. With an introduction by Pamela Knights.
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
'I want – I want somehow to get away with you into a world where words like that – categories like that – won't exist. Where we shall be simply two human beings who love each other, who are the whole of life to each other; and nothing else on earth will matter.’
Newland Archer, a successful and charming young lawyer conducts himself by the rules and standards of the polite, upper class New York society that he resides in. Happily engaged to the pretty and conventional May Welland, his attachment guarantees his place in this rigid world of the elite.
However, the arrival of May’s cousin, the exotic and beautiful European Countess Olenska throws Newland’s life upside down. A divorcee, Olenska is ostracised by those around her, yet Newland is fiercely drawn to her wit, determination and willingness to flout convention. With the Countess, Newland is freed from the limitations that surround him and truly begins to ‘feel’ for the first time.
Wharton’s subtle exposé of the manners and etiquette of 1870s New York society is both comedic, subtle, satirical and cynical in style and paints an evocative picture of a man torn between his passion and his obligation.