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Free Study Guide The House of Mirth by 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?

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