the house of mirth

finished reading edith wharton’s “the house of mirth” in florida. as i had just read “the age of innocence,” i can’t help but compare the two books. i found “age” to be more polished in a sense – a perfectly proportioned work of art, meticulously observed, beautifully crafted. “the house of mirth” has more abandon to it and requires more emotional engagement. rather than having the luxury of observing a society constrained by arbitrary conventions, we are thrown headlong into the stuffy parlors of new york’s elite and we can’t help but live lily bart’s struggles as she tries to make her way around the serpentine maze of hypocritical upper class etiquette. lily’s gradual fall from grace is difficult to experience as it underlines the paltry set of choices available to women in societies where they are mostly meant to be ornamental. this frustration is further heightened by lily’s doomed relationship with lawrence seldon, the only man who makes her feel like a complete human being. the sense of suffocation that one feels throughout the book changes to much sadness as we reach the final denouement of lily’s tragic fate.

the house of mirth