Knee-Jerk Reaction to The House of Mirth

So…I did a bad thing. I was supposed to be following Cleo’s readalong schedule for The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Unfortunately, curiosity and momentum got the better of me. I read the entire second half in day…which was probably a huge mistake.

I’m not going to do a complete review in this post, because I’m still holding out hope that further discussion will change my mind about the book. But what follows are my irreverent, completely uncensored insta-reactions.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW THE CUT. And I mean MAJOR!!!!!

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The plot of the book as I saw it:

  • Formerly rich girl sets off to find love and money.
  • Gets love and money. From different guys unfortunately.
  • Can’t pick between Rich Guy and True-Love Guy. Loses both.
  • Tries to accept poor singledom and fails.
  • Overdoses on drugs and dies.

This was truly not the disaster I was anticipating. πŸ˜•

I’m really upset Wharton took the book this direction. That’s kind of an understatement. I didn’t like Lily, but I was rooting for her. She had it in her to get better. She could’ve patched it up with the True-Love Guy later on, if she’d just given it more time.

This was like that brutal scene in Jane Eyre when she’s suddenly homeless, with apparently no future and no meaningful past. Imagine Jane just ending it all right there. That’s how this felt.

I’m not undermining the power of depression; it’s a terrible thing, I know personally. But I’ve made it through some stuff that never seemed to end. I wanted to see Lily make it through, too.

Ok… I’m going to give this a break for a bit and continue to follow the readalong discussions. Maybe some other perspective will help me out.

11 thoughts on “Knee-Jerk Reaction to The House of Mirth

  1. i was going to read this also but after two pages i saw that it was not going to be my type of book so i quit. but it must have some redeeming qualities: i’ve read that others have really liked it a lot… makes me wonder about my own judgment… i’ve been meaning to ask: has Cleo not posted for a month or so or am i just missing the connection some how? i had that trouble before; the computer can’t tell the difference between her old blogs and her new ones…

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    • At this point I am also questioning my judgment. πŸ™‚
      Cleo’s last post was November 20th. I have noticed a similar issue with comments, requiring an extra page refresh, but I thought it was just me…

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  2. Sorry, I’ve gotten behind in my posting but I’m going away this weekend to catch-up and hopefully get ahead!

    So there’s something else that I saw when I first read the book ….. something underneath the obvious. I hope I still see it this time but I’ll get back to you. This time I’m particularly watching for the changes in Lily’s character and the comparison between her and the society she inhabits..

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  3. i finished House/Mirth; rather a misleading title, altho it introduces pretty well what i thought of the book. it seems almost like a revenge tragedy, with EW using the plot to indict what must have been the upper class society of her time… there’s a lot of inconsistency in the plot, or maybe i mean things that are hard to fathom, like Selden’s behavior toward the gal he supposedly loves: hard for me to credit that he just sits around on his thumbs while she’s gallivanting off to Nice in someone else’s boat and even when he gets there, apparently following her around, he’s not what one would call helpful. Otoh, he said to himself, there’s no question but EW is a phenomenally good writer: she knows all the words and is able to use them as effectively as anyone i’ve ever read. that’s what kept me reading when i was ready to quite in semi-disgust… don’t know if i’ll be eager to dive into another one of hers, tho…

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    • Agreed, Selden is a bit of an enigma. I’m not quite sure what he saw in Lily, except someone who leaned on him. I also wonder if he got together with Gerty later on.

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      • P. S. Maybe it was a misunderstanding of mine, but my other thought was that Lily and Mr Rosedale could have been happy together in the long run if she had just accepted him as he was. They were like two sides of the same character… both had the same goals and a strange mix of sincerity and scheming.

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  4. i don’t know why EW kept insinuating that Rosedale had hidden virtues if she wasn’t going to have Lily and him get together… i’m glad i’m not an author: just imagine all the bad things people would say about my work… haha…

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  5. I’ve been avoiding your post, but I just finished the book early myself so I guess it’s now OK…

    Lily is a little hard to take at points! I figured Lily was a goner from the start–I knew it was supposed to be a tragedy–but one wanted to tell her to make up her mind. Of course, one could say the same of thing of Hamlet. It’s a poor set of choices she’s handed by society–as with most not-rich women of the time–but I wish I could feel her plight could entirely be based on society.

    I felt early on she could have been with Selden if she’d just been willing to indicate she could live happily on Selden’s income; later Selden jumps to a wrong and mostly unjustified conclusion when he sees her leaving Trenor’s late at night, and then so later it’s his fault and I don’t think she could convince him otherwise. But she should have!

    I don’t Rosedale at the end was ever really a possibility. She could never have lived with herself if she had even discreetly blackmailed Bertha Dorset on Rosedale’s, or even her own, behalf–no matter how much Bertha deserved it!

    But, yes, the ending. Ouch!

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    • Oh, I’d forgotten about Rosedale wanting her to commit blackmail… I agree, that would’ve been going too far, not to mention damaging to Selden.

      I really didn’t see the ending coming at all! I mean I wasn’t expecting a happy ending, but that was such a shock. 😦

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