Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Ending of Mirth

As the last of the chapeters in the House of Mirth were consumed I found myself totally unsatisfied. I dont understand the reason that niether Lily or Sledon come out and express their love. I was actually at the poitn where I had to put the book down, and remind myself that this isn't real life, but as I was calming myself I was thinking about a the same feelings I had during The Blithedale Romance. The way I feel about novles is more like an investment, you invest your time and effort into it hoping for some sort of pay off, but that doesn't always happen. This novel and others like it, leave the audience feeling empty at the end, the investment of Lily and Seldon never matures to the point where there is a gratifying payoff. Watching Lily go through this novel and not only miss her opportunity at loving someone but, missing her chance to tell the one she really loves that she in fact does love him, leaves us with nothing. Why have a novel that never reaches its ultimate potential? This makes me wonder if Wharton felt the same way I do after I finish, like the piece was never fully developed or reached felt final in any way.
The other thing I've been wondering and really trying to work out in my head, is why exactly does Lily not play her trump card and expose Bertha for who she really is. This makes absolutely no sense. All Lily really wants is to be part of high society, yet she seems to want to do it in a quasi honest way. Whereas everyone else around her doesn't care how they get their status, just as long as they get it. Again, this only adds to the frustration that is Lily. She never reaches her potential as a character and to me this is perplexing, Wharton alomst teases us with this character and this book.
As I get my closure with this book, I understand where this book stands within the canon.
Good book, but very limiting when in characters develope....or don't.


  1. If Lily blackmails Bertha, she gives up "the old Lily"--the moral self that Selden has loved--and becomes part of that society. But it is frustrating that they won't confess their love, if they do indeed love each other by the end.

  2. A lot of times, peoples' perceptions of their ideal selves are out of line with their true selves-- their actual behaviors. I think it's commendable that Lily is attempting to keep true to who she believes she is deep down. Environment often dictates behavior, and it's hard to gain a true sense of awareness when it's so easy to accept the paradise of the illusory world one has become accustomed to. As far as Lily and Seldon go, perhaps we have this overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction because we can objectively view the thoughts and actions of each character. In their situation, they are only able to take that leap of faith that clashes with societal rules. To do so is very risky, and even though the greater outcome is obvious to us as readers, it may not be to the people involved in the actual situation. I also wonder what Edith Wharton's cultural and romantic experiences were that influenced her writing in this subject matter. Since very similar concepts are being used in multiple literary works, it would be plausible to assume that she is familiar with these experiences and outcomes in her own life. Unfortunately, that's life. Missed opportunites, and falling short of speaking how we truly feel to another person special to us.

  3. I agree with you and like many of the points you make. I felt unsatisfied by the ending, as with Blithedale Romance. It's hard to look past what I want to happen as a reader and try to find the point the author was trying to make.

  4. I as well was disappointed that Lily died. I really wanted her independent spirit to triumph over society, ending with her sticking it to society and marrying Seldon. It would have been an awesome ending, but apparently Wharton did not have the same plans for Lily. I did my paper on Wharton’s portrayal of Lily and one critic said that the reason Lily is a hero is that she did not trade in her “spirit” for “good sense.” I see how that makes Lily a hero, but I don’t know if she needed to die for it.