Monday, December 16, 2019

The House of Mirth Readalong Week #6: Book 2 Ch. 10 - end

=Rosedale isn't that bad after all

I can see now that, compared to the other men in Lily Bart's set, Rosedale isn't that bad. He had ambitions, yes, but at least he also possessed compassion towards Lily. He's the only one who still regarded Lily as a friend, while her former 'friends' all denounced her. That he could not relinquish his selfish ambition, it's in accordance with Wharton's theme of determinism - the Naturalists' formula. And it struck me also that Rosedale is actually very similar to Lily, in regards of their struggles between two passions.

=The battle of influences - which will triumph?

Chapter 11 reveals again Lily Bart's heroism in her persisted rejection of Rosedale to the end, despite of her longing to be freed from poverty. In the end, I should say that Lily's inheritance from her father, sharpened by Selden's republic of the spirit, has finally (slightly) triumphed over the influence of her mother's upbringing.

=Lily and Selden - is it possible?

Selden and Lily loved each other - theirs is the only relationship that is pure, without concession. So, why couldn't they be together? I think there's two reasons:

1. On Selden's part:
It's because Selden and Lily came from two different world. Selden was attracted to Lily, but he also 'judged' her as the member of her world. He couldn't marry her because he hated her crude passion for money. This is also Selden's personal struggle between two influences: his love for Lily, his longing to save her; and his critical view of her world. It's so difficult to put trust on something you have taught all your life to hate. So, when, after hearing so many rumors about Lily, Selden saw Lily in Gus Trenor house, how he supposed to think about this suspicious situation? How was he supposed to believe in Lily, when she herself was always swayed to the world she started to hate? No, it's almost impossible on Selden's part to be 100% percent sure of Lily. And Selden has been enjoying his life all along, why would he sacrifice it, when Lily herself rejected him twice (or thrice?) when he heroically proposed to marry her?

2. On Lily's part:
Her world was her habitat, so she clung to it to the end. That's why, though Selden's world was much attracted, and part of her longed to live in it, she couldn't uproot herself from her world.

Then, when her case started to look hopeless, I think it's also partly her pride that made her shrinking from Selden's humble offer altogether.

In the end, they are not destined to be together. If this were Victorian novel, things could be different. Selden perhaps, would brave himself to marry Lily at critical moment, and Lily would be touched, and relented, and... a happy ending. But, this is a Naturalist fiction, and we were not supposed to 'triumph' over the force of nature.

=Suicide or accident?

Should you even ask? Of course it's suicide. Every sentence in the last chapter leads to this conclusion. Lily was terribly unhappy for the time being, and in chapter 14 she has lost all hope. Suicidal person doesn't deliberately end his life just like that, because human instinct is always to survive, to cling to life. It is a mental process, which at the end, when he or she did not see any tiny spark at the end of the tunnel, then the most natural step is just added a little drop of the drug. It's a decision one takes when there's nothing to lose - death becomes more and more alluring. And so at the end, the mind gave up to the mental.

It always a devastating read, The House of Mirth is! But, what a beautiful vivid writing from Edith Wharton! I always nickname her 'the female Zola', and how appropriate it is!

I must thank Cleo @ Classics Carousel for hosting this readalong. It has been fun and wonderful, though I have not as actively participated as I have hoped, due to my works, but it's always amazing to read a piece of magnum opus like this with some friends. :)


  1. Great points, Fanda! Yes, Rosedale surprises us -- doesn't he? And, yes, while I haven't finished the book, yet, I agree: Lily and Selden cannot ever be together. The natural forces that rule the hearts of Lily and Selden, prevent them from yielding to one another. So true! Any other given time, it may have happened after all, albeit then we would have been reading how miserable Lily was anyway. Ah, well.

  2. Your thoughts on Lily and Selden seem exactly right. If Lily could have brought herself to love Selden at the beginning that would have been the best, but she couldn't, could she? She would have to give up her liveliness, her spirit, or so she thought.

    I still can't quite forgive Rosedale for insisting that Lily use the letters in order for him to marry her the second time he proposes.

    It really has been a great readalong!

  3. I so agree about Rosedale. He was a little rough around the edges but I did quite like him at the end.

    I did not like Selden, however. I thought he was in a situation to be a little more merciful to Lily but chose to act on his injured feelings and pride. I wasn't impressed.

    Wharton gave evidence that despite Selden's "republic of the spirit" that they both were affected by the society in which they moved.The situation between them was one which could have been cleared up only by a sudden explosion of feeling; and their whole training and habit of mind were against the chances of such an explosion.” Basically Wharton says they were unable to get together because of their training which society gave them. She makes note of it later, as well. I rather think it was because of their mistaken pride but who am I to argue with the author, lol!

    Oh ho, here we go .... I did not think it was a suicide and I thought Wharton gave evidence against it. Lily is buoyed up at the end and is thinking ahead and planning for the next day. Either way, I don't think it's obvious at all as critics have been debating this point for ages. However, I'd love it if you found excepts from the text that point to your opinion. I'm going to go back and look at my book.

    Great thoughts, Fanda! I've really enjoyed your posts. You have some wonderful insights.


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