House of Mirth Essay

Topics: Tableau vivant, Edith Wharton, Sociology Pages: 4 (1790 words) Published: May 25, 2013
The Female Body in The House of Mirth
The female body plays a very important role in The House of Mirth. Throughout the novel, Lily’s body is objectified by others, and by herself. This objectification of her body leads to various hardships for Lily. Some of these hardships are caused by confusion, indecision, and communication issues. Also, I believe that both men in the novel, and Lily, are responsible for these hardships. Throughout the novel, all Lily really owns that is of value is her body. I believe this to be true because there are various examples of men objectifying her for her body. Even Selden, who isn’t even a member of the high society, and who should be more rational based on his lower social standing, objectifies Lily for her body. Edith Wharton makes this fact very clear at the beginning of the book when she writes: “ Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart. Selden had never seen her more radiant. Her vivid head, relieved against the dull tints of the crowd, made her more conspicuous than in a ball-room, and under her dark hat and veil she regained the girlish smoothness, the purity of tint, that she was beginning to lose after eleven years of late hours and indefatigable dancing... ... He was aware that the qualities distinguishing her from the herd of her sex were chiefly external: as though a fine gaze of beauty and fastidiousness had been applied to vulgar clay.”(3) As you can see from the quote above, Selden objectifies Lily for her body from the beginning. He says that her distinguishing qualities are “chiefly external”, which is what most of the men in the novel think of her as well. Also, after Lily leaves Selden’s flat at the beginning of the book, Selden “"paused to look about her”, which is another sign of Selden’s interest in Lily’s looks. I think these quotes from the beginning of the novel show how Lily’s beauty gets...
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