Monday, March 28, 2011

Lily and other women

In your response to this prompt, I'd love to hear your assessment of the range of women Wharton presents in her novel. Who do we meet? What are they like? What features characterize each? For what were they trained or not "trained"?
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.6


  1. In terms of the "range" of women introduced in this novel, there is a wide range in terms of both status and behaviors. On one end, the maid is introduced, and though there isn't much written about her, we can only assume that she is an upstanding person because she returns the letters to the owner (or so she believes). She serves as a symbol that Lily is jealous of because though she is of a lower caste, she seems "wholesome" and is happy with her circumstances. On the other end of the spectrum, there are spoiled rich women, like Bertha Dorset. She not only is extremely wealthy herself, but she marries a well off husband. She is sneaky (her attempted affair), she is hypocritical and callous (as evidenced by her starting rumors about Lily), and is mostly illustrated as an unwholesome character overall. There are intermediates between the two; Lily's cousin, Gerty, is well off but has an almost lack of personality. Lily is afraid of her "dullness". These women are "trained" for an array of ideologies and goals, as well. The maid, as one can guess, is trained to earn a living for herself and perhaps her family. This is done by doing her work in a satisfactory manner, which could be connected to her possible "wholesome" nature. On the other hand, the rich ladies introduced have "training" to flourish in their niche, which is essentially being complacent and taking part in activities that amuse themselves, like shopping and gossiping about their "friends".

  2. Lily, the main character, is Wharton's tragically indecisive girl caught in a struggle of aspiring to the wealthy upper society and avoiding the working middle class life. The best features about Lily are her beauty, sharpness, and social manipulation which are her only foot holds in a society that she truly doesn't belong in. Lily and her mother have trained her to be a "gold digger", aka marry a rich man for financial stability which in many cases conflicts with her moral goals.

    Mrs. Peniston is Lily's guardian since her mother passed. Mrs. Peniston represents old money and values, she is supportive and provides the basic needs to Lily until she learns of an accused affair with Gus Trenor and her gambling habits. The result was Lily being disowned and later dispersing assets to others.

    Judy Trenor is Gus' wife. The couple is very successful and in book 1 hosts many parties and social events. Judy, like many other women, represents new money and all about gossip. Judy's training could be considered hosting parties and showing off her husbands success.

    Gerty Farish represents another world to Lily because she is middle class, working, and charitable. Lily finds her hospitalities to be of great use in a couple instances. Too the upper class she could be seen as dingy.

    Bertha Dorset is George's wife and she represents something very unlike that of any other woman in the book. Where Lily is accused of affairs with married men Bertha is guilty of it herself. Bertha is also into drama such as rumors and spite. Bertha's training is to be destructive.

  3. Lily Bart: Young and attractive, but not so financially responsible. She is taught by her mother than marrying a rich man is the key to happiness. Despite being a "gold digger", she redeems herself by not indulging in the scandalous opportunities that avail themselves to her.

    Mrs. Bart: Lily's mother who lives way beyond her family's means practically ensuring their financial ruin. She teaches her daughter the pleasures of fine living and sets the stage for her unhappiness that unravels in the story.

    Julia Peniston: Lily's aunt who takes her in when she is orphaned. An "old money" woman with no skills besides living extravagantly, there isn't much to like about her. She basically dooms Lily when she admonishes her for her gambling by leaving most of her inheritance to Grace instead.

    Gerty Farish: The most likable character in the story. It is probably no coincidence that she is also not one of the members of high society. She remains a true friend to Lily even though her love interest is in love with Lily.

    Carry Fisher: Experienced socialite and party host. Despite having been divorced twice, she still remains respected among her peers. She is a friend to Lily helping her to find jobs and inviting her to parties to mingle with potential suitors.

    Mrs. Haffen: The charwoman who provides Lily with the letters. Although she didn't do this with the best of intentions, "poor people have to eat as well as the rich."

    Bertha Dorset: One vile, vindictive witch. Jealous of her youth and beauty, she spreads a rumor that Lily is having an affair with her husband.

    Grace Stepney: Another terrible upper class woman. Jealous of Lily's relationship with Mrs. Peniston and offended that she was not invited to a party, she reveals Lily's gambling problem to Mrs. Peniston. In retaliation, Mrs. Peniston wills most of her inheritance to Grace instead of Lily.

    Judy Trenor: The final conspirator in Lily's downfall. Jealous of the financial advice she received from Mr. Trenor, Judy delights in seeing Lily's financial desperation as she uses her inheritance to pay back the Trenors.


    The major theme among the female characters is that they are women who were bred to look good, have good manners, and display fine taste to attract a rich husband. None of these skills offer any real benefit to the human race. They also lack qualities like loyalty, honesty, humility, and compassion.

  4. Bertha Dorset= evil, vindictive wench who needs a good slap to the face. If she must be promiscuous, she doesn’t need to frame her habit on somebody innocent, since, during that time, that kind of behavior pretty much ruined an unmarried women’s life in that social circle. Bertha is trained to backstab, lie, blackmail, gossip, and appear sociable since she is wealthy.

    Lily Bart= good person at heart. Smart, but stupid. She was trained to marry into wealth. She was not trained to earn her money independently, but more like earning it by snagging a rich husband with her beauty and charm. She has a hard time sticking to her guns.

    Girty Farish= good person. Independent. Does a lot of charity work.

    Mrs. Peniston= trained to think in black and white. Very strict in her morals. She is good, but really mean.

    Judy Trenor= trained to be an entertainer/hostess of social gatherings for the upper class social circles. Seemed to be a good person.

  5. The novel introduces a wide range of women and personality types. At the top of the social structure Wharton has the typical wealthy women. Some of these include Judy Trenor, the ideal hostess and cosmopolitan woman who maintains a high social status; Bertha Dorset, who, although not as wealthy as Judy Trenor, still maintains a popular social circle a loyal following of cronies, who seem more afraid of being disliked by her rather than actual friend figures. Then there’s Gerty Farish, the charming “do-gooder.” Although plain, Gerty is one of the more optimistic characters in the book, always seeming to find the good in others despite the vindictive nature of many of the main characters. There is also Carry Fisher, the risky divorcĂ©, who seems to be very aware of the importance of marriage in her society and takes every opportunity to indulge in the practice. Finally, there are characters like Nettie Struther, the most endearing in the novel. A simple, honest, and hardworking mother and wife, Nettie is the ultimate picture of happiness, despite having almost no money. She has overcome many obstacles in her life and is yet still content with the home and family she has worked hard to establish. Most of the wealthy women in the novel seem “trained” for their lifestyle. The know how to dress and act in such a way that makes them either candidates for marriage, or the perfect married woman. The poorer women seem resigned to their fate and seek the best life possible given their lower social standards. As the picture of a wealthy woman, Lily is not “trained” to handle irrational emotions or strong personal sentiments not typical of women who are seemingly forced to marry. She is inept at handling her own emotions and desires and it is this feature which distinguishes her most from the rest of the women.

  6. In a general sense, Wharton seems to present two ends of a spectrum which are defined overwhelmingly by the character's type of fulfilment. On one end the reader may observe the maid who, leading a relatively simple life, is confined to her duties and isn't worried by the "elite" affairs of higher society. She is fulfilled on a complete level because her character is not shown to have any worries or large flaws in relation to the higher echelons of society. The fiscally elite, on the other hand, are continually pushed to scour for further social fulfilment and are also pushed to be materially validated, causing further spiritual strife. Lily continually shifts from pole to pole, hoping to redeem meaning from either end, yet due to her internal struggles, is left feeling unfulfilled and unplaced in the wider scheme of society.

  7. Like Adella said there is a very broad range of women in the novel. They cover many social classes of society. The charwoman is the impoverished class. She is trained to be a cleaner and social servant. She relies on her own abilities to make money and maintain work. The charwoman even will even resort o blackmailing in order to secure her financial situation. Then there is Gerty Farish. She is the working class, possibly upper middle class, woman. She has her own modest income and she was trained to live within her means. Even if that means she has to be dingy. She doesn’t try to be rich because she knows that she isn’t. Her character was one that I found most pleasant. Judy Trenor is a part of the wealthy class. She is at first friends with Lily. She is trained to have a wealthy husband and spend his money. She follows the crowd and eventually rejects Lily. Mrs. Peniston is also wealthy class. She is Lily’s aunt and is very moral. She controls Lily by controlling Lily’s allowance. When rumors spread about Lily she at first doesn’t believe them. Then she finds out about Lily’s gambling and assumes all of the other rumors are true and disinherits Lily. Lily’s mother was a part of the wealthy class before falling with her husband. She trains Lily to use her beauty and her mind to get ahead in life. The most vile of all the women is Bertha Dorset. She is in the same social condition as the other wealthy women. Her personality causes her to use everyone around her. She feels threatened by Lily and smears her.

  8. Once again, the book we are reading very much reminds me of current shows like Desperate Housewives in the sense that the background and roles of each character in The House of Mirth is similar to one in Desperate Housewives.

    Lily (Susan on Desperate Housewives) seems to always be in a conundrum of some sort. No matter how lucky she sometimes gets, there always seems to be something go wrong. Often times her reaction has a large affect on the outcome of the situation. She was trained by her mother to marry into a better-off family than her own.

    Bertha Dorset (Edie on Desperate Housewives) makes an impact in nearly everyone's lives. Many people see her as an abrasive woman who makes other people's lives difficult.

    Carry Fisher (Bree on Desperate Housewives) is compassionate, and also realistic. When it seems as though Lily has nobody else to turn to, Carry is there to help Lily out at least a little.

  9. I think that this book showed two different "ranges" of women, a polarization of the wealthy and non-wealthy. I recall that as I read the book I noted that the women of wealth behaved in similar fashions with the main difference being there individual circumstances. The wealthy women are all gossip queens, having their noses in everyone's business, manipulate in order to achieve the results they want, and are breed essentially to be gold-diggers; it seems like none of them are able to be happy in their own set of circumstances, regardless of how fortuitous they are in securing a husband. On the other end of the spectrum we have individuals like the maid who, though she is poor, is happy with life and her situation despite her lack of culture and wealth. When thinking globally of the characters for The House of Mirth it seems like a underlying message of "wealth doesn't bring happiness" is expressed with the women's social classes and struggles within those classes.

  10. The range of women represented in "A House of Mirth" vary widely, in terms of money, as well as happiness. The poorest woman would be the char woman outside Seldon's apartment building, the richest would probably be Bertha Dorset. The char women seems to be some what complacent with her life, on the other hand, Bertha Dorset seems to like making people unhappy, being unhappy herself, perhaps. On the happiness scale, Lilly would perhaps be at the bottom, while Nettie, one of the girls at Gerty Farish's club, seems to be the happiest. Perhaps the essence of happiness in this book was down to training. Lilly set her sights very high, and as a consequence, passed up a lot of good opportunities for happiness.

  11. Lily: The main character of the story. Her goal in life is to find a wealthy husband to marry so will would be part of the upper class citizens. She doesn't let her emotions overrun her, so she bases her decisions on what would benefit her the most. Growing up around her mother made Lily into a person who will always find a way to get her goal, no matter who gets in her way.

    Mrs. Peniston: She is one of Lily's aunt's who takes Lily into her home when Lily's parents die.

    Bertha Dorset: She is George Dorset's wife. She doesn't like Lily very much and has a great ability to manipulate others and is also rich

  12. Most of the woman we meet, her mother, her cousin, her aunt, all style themselves into the same sort of role that Lily herself fancies, some more than others. The charwoman is the least close to this role, though Lily herself remarks on how similar the two of them are, when you get down to it. Everyone except the charwoman was "trained" to make a life for themselves by marrying up to sustain a lavish lifestyle. The charwoman may not have aspired to be that way, but I'm sure she would probably not reject it if the opportunity presented itself to her.

  13. In the novel we of course have the protagonist, Lily. She cannot make up her mind with what she wants and this will lead to her demise. We also see Lily's friend who is an artist and who is very content with life. In fact, the women who have a job in the story are very content with life. The other women in the story, those who belong to the upper class which Lily wants to belong to, are concerned with their wealth and having a good time. They gossip about each other and do whatever necessary to stay at the top. They are very selfish. This helps keep Lily on the outside.

  14. Thought the book it seems that there is not much of a range of different kinds or classes of women. I only see three the wealthy, non-wealthy, and the formerly wealthy. it seem that all of the women character fit into one of these three classes and behave in relatively the same fashion as the others in their class. The wealthy women all seem to be trained to through extravagant parties and play bridge, the non-wealthy women seem to be trained to work so that they can help provide and the formerly wealthy women seem to be trained to try and get back into the money.

  15. Lily Bart is skilled at playing society's games, which expect her to achieve a beneficial marriage.

    Simon Rosedale seeks advancement to a higher social class through his commercial success.

    Lawrence Selden is a young lawyer who is captivated by Lily Bart. Selden thinks Lily might not reciprocate his feelings for her because she is not ready to marry for love.

    Mrs Julia Peniston: Lily's aunt Julia reluctantly accepted financial responsibility for Lily after her parents died

    Carry Fisher is a divorced woman who relies on her social skills to survive

    Gerty farish kind and selfless natures leads her to devote herself to public service.

    Bertha Dorset uses her social position to isolate and humiliate lily because she thinks her husband is growing an interest in beautiful lily