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The House of Mirth Study Guide-Online Summary Free BookNotes-Edith Wharton
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1. Examine the characterization of one of the social climbers of the novel (Mrs. Bry, Mrs. Gormer, Norma Hatch, or Simon Rosedale). Does Wharton give them depth or are they caricatured?

2. Look at the scenes between Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden. Do these scenes function mainly to comment on action or do they also forward action?

3. What kind of lover/husband would Lawrence Selden be?

4. What does Lawrence Seldenís insistence that he is merely a spectator mean in relation to his ability to judge Lilyís morality?

5. How does Wharton portray the working class? Look at the characters Nettie Struthers and Mrs. Haffen as well as Lilyís fellow workers at the hat shop.

6. Critique the racialized treatment of Simon Rosedale? How does Wharton deploy anti-Semitism in her condemnation of social climbers?

7. How does Wharton use Mrs. Peniston to embody the older generation of old rich? How do they come across with her as a representative?

8. How does Wharton represent womenís economic options? Look at the characters of Carrie Fisher, Lily Bart, Gerty Farish, and Bertha Dorset to see the range of economic options of women as Wharton represents them.

9. Analyze the contradictions of Lily Bartís nature, especially that between her desire for luxury and her inability to carry through with plans to ensure that she has it.

10. Analyze the characterization of Gerty Farish as a parallel character to Lily Bart. How does Wharton set up the alternative between Gerty Farishís choice to live poor by respectability and Lily Bartís choice to live in luxury but with moral laxity?

11. Analyze the parallel between Lawrence Selden, as a man of little income, and Lily Bart, as a woman of little income, both in the same class in New York society. What does Wharton imply by setting up this parallel?


The study of literature is not like the study of math or science, or even history. While those disciplines are based largely upon fact, the study of literature is based upon interpretation and analysis. There are no clear-cut answers in literature, outside of the factual information about an author's life and the basic information about setting and characterization in a piece of literature. The rest is a highly subjective reading of what an author has written; each person brings a different set of values and a different background to the reading. As a result, no two people see the piece of literature in exactly the same light, and few critics agree on everything about a book or an author.

In this set of PinkMonkey® Literature Notes for a well-known piece of literature, we at have tried to give an objective literary analysis based upon the information actually found in the novel, book, or play. In the end, however, it is an individual interpretation, but one that we feel can be readily supported by the information that is presented in the guide. In your course of literature study, you or your professor/teacher may come up with a different interpretation of the mood or the theme or the conflict. Your interpretation, if it can be logically supported with information contained within the piece of literature, is just as correct as ours. So is the interpretation of your teacher or professor.

Literature is simply not a black or white situation; instead, there are many gray areas that are open to varying analyses. Your task is to come up with your own analysis that you can logically defend. Hopefully, these PinkMonkey® Literature Notes will help you to accomplish that goal.

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