House of Mirth a House of Love, Scruples, or Selfishness?

January 10, 2012 at 4:38 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: The House of Mirth

Gillian Anderson in the 2000 Major Motion Picture of The House of Mirth

Author: Edith Wharton

Publisher: Barnes & Noble

Genre: Classic Literature

Length: 277 pages

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My all time favorite questions when reading literature are: What is this character’s perception of love? What is the author telling us their own view of love is? And after reading this how do you view love? To quote Moulin Rouge: “Always this ridiculous obsession with love!” But it drives so much, and please forgive the pun, it is truly at the heart of every matter. So in reading The House of Mirth, my driving questions throughout the book have been: What is Lily Bart’s perception of love? What is Wharton trying to tell me about her own worldview concerning love?

Truth be told, I’m not sure what the answer is. She and Selden seem to have this constrained but meant-to-be-doomed-so-impossible love affair. “Ah, love me, love me—but don’t tell me so “? she tells him. She refuses Rosedale and all his money because she doesn’t love him. A lesson in morality from the beautiful Lily Bart? I’d say yes, except that she doesn’t run into the sunset with Selden when offered because he can’t support her lifestyle and she also seems to enjoy stringing Rosedale along, “the first sincere words she had ever spoken to him” not being voiced until very near the end of the book. So what is it Miss Bart? Money or love?

In the end, I have to say I think Lily is truly attempting to stand her moral ground but endlessly falls short via her own selfishness. Wharton would have you believe that this is an early stage of love, as she described Selden’s “impassioned self-absorption that the first surrender to love produces.” However, by the definition taught to me, selfishness is the direct opposite of love. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 tells us,

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Neither Lily nor Selden seem to manage to maintain, much less attempt, these characteristics.

The dichotomy of Lily Bart is a fascinating one, probably one of the many reasons this book has been deemed a classic. One essayist wrote: “Lily’s distinction lies precisely in her ability to transcend such crude ambitions” as using her beauty to marry for money (Lahoucine Ouzgane). Wharton herself writes,

And was it her fault that the purely decorative mission is less easily and harmoniously fulfilled among social beings than in the world of nature? That it is apt to be hampered by material necessities or complicated by moral scruples?

Many believe this to be a tragic love triangle between Selden, Lily, and the nature of capitalism. Some people believe the work is Wharton making a statement about love, the nature of her own marriage, and the internal struggles she herself felt during the age. But what is The House of Mirth to you? Read it and find out. No matter what you discover of Lily, you won’t regret the experience, Wharton’s prose is lovely.

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The Woodlanders

July 3, 2011 at 7:49 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

A quick blurb:

I’ve been up and down with The Woodlanders, mostly based on my mood.  I loved it, it lulled, I hated it, and now with its final sentence I love it again.  I am finding more and more that this is the sway of things with Hardy and me.  His characters are so dynamic and unique and yet you find familiarity in each one every time you turn.  He has nailed the human race time and time again, yet he is most known for his nature descriptions.  I truly recommend every avid reader to enjoy at least one Hardy a year for literary sustenance.

Scentsy pairing: Shades of Green in the room you are sitting in, but keep Honey Peared Cider going in the adjacent room and let them subtly linger together.

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Oh Dear, Another Vonnegut…

February 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

A Review of Cat’s Cradle (kind of)

My problem with Vonnegut is that his novels are too short.  I was just finally becoming fascinated by the Bokonons and their rituals and the book ends.  I want his tales Dickens style – with two or three hundred pages on Bokonon establishing his religion and living in the jungle, then I want another hundred pages on Newt, Angela, and Frank.  Instead, I get a sentence here, a paragraph there, and finish the book unsatisfied.  On top of that, I feel like a jerk for not appreciating Vonnegut the way the rest of society seems to.  I have the appropriate shelf of my library dedicated to all his work, but I just can’t muster up the love.  Like Salinger, he’s good, he’s even really good, but he’s not the best thing ever (though I am repeatedly told that he is).  Perhaps the hype has ruined him for me.

Buy a copy here:

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