Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
Lily Bart, a woman born into New York’s old rich society, but whose family’s fortunes have fallen. Her task is to find a rich husband, but she cannot bring herself to carry through with such an mercenary scheme.
On one hand, the antagonist is Lily Bart’s double nature she desires luxury, but she is not able to sell herself to win it. On the other hand and more pervasively, the antagonist of the novel is the economic position of women in the early part of this century. Women of Lily’s class were necessarily dependent on a family fortune or their looks and grace in winning a fortune through marriage.
The novel climaxes when Gus Trenor, a married man of Lily’s acquaintance, attempts to rape her in exchange for having given her money in a bogus investment scheme.
Lily is ostracized from society and disinherited by her aunt. She dies penniless in a run-down boarding house after having paid back her debt to Gus Trenor.