House of Mirth Essay

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In the novel The House of Mirth, author Edith Wharton depicts protagonist Lily Bart’s struggle to maintain individualism and find herself while conforming to society’s expectations. Lily is a strong individual in the way she leads life, as shown in her rejecting proposals because she is looking for both wealth and a happy life of love and true understanding of herself. However, this individualism Lily believed would bring her true self-realization also served as her downfall, casting her into poverty, cast out of her social circles, and depressed.     Lily desired to have her own independence or her own republic of the spirit. She wanted to be free “from money, from poverty, from ease and anxiety, from all the material accidents” (Wharton 81). Lily wanted to incorporate both of the worlds of wealth and independence. She was unable to do this due to the way she was raised. Lily was raised to live for the luxurious offerings of life and not for the value of life and finding of one’s true self. This upbringing caused Lily to be confused about how to achieve her own republic of the spirit without clashing with her desire to be wealthy. Lily does not have a chance for freedom because she was expected to always be consumed into her looks and outer appearance by the society in which she was raised and lived in. Lily was constantly self-sabotaging herself with her indecisiveness. Her indecisiveness streamed from her not allowing herself to fully conform to what society expected of her. This caused her to pass up several good marriage opportunities in hopes that she could always do better. Lily’s desire to marry clashes with Selden, a man of modest means who she truly loved. Yet Lily could never marry Selden because he only represented the republic of the spirit and not the wealth society raised her to believe was needed more than anything to live a happy life. On the other hand Lily could not marry the rather wealthy Percy either, as he could not give her happiness or...
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