The House of Mirth Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The House of Mirth: Characters

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Bertha Dorset

Bertha is Lily’s nemesis through the course of the novel. Her spite is most notable when she begins the rumor that her husband and Lily are more than friends. She does this to create a smokescreen to mask her own infidelities.


Carry Fisher

Carry is seen to make a form of living by helping newcomers gain entry into the elite of society. She is one of the few to remain friendly with Lily after she loses favor with Judy Trenor.


George Dorset

George is the hapless husband of Bertha and is for the most part blind to her indiscretions.


Gerty Farish

Gerty is the cousin of Selden and the epitome of selflessness. She works for charitable concerns and provides friendship for Lily when others desert her, and this is despite her jealousy when she realizes that Selden has feelings for Lily.


Grace Stepney

She is given the greatest share of Mrs Peniston’s will rather than Lily and it is clear that she is the more able at insinuating herself on this aged wealthy relative.


Gus Trenor

Gus Trenor claims to be able to make money for Lily by using her investments wisely on the stock market. It transpires, however, that he has used his own money and has given this to Lily in the expectation that she will become his ‘friend’. Once she discovers this indebtedness, she determines to pay back the $9,000 dollars despite her inability to do so.


Jack Stepney

This is Lily’s cousin and he becomes more respectable when he marries into the wealthy Van Osburgh family.


Judy Trenor

She is the wife of Gus and friend of Lily, but ostracizes Lily when she believes she has taken money from her husband when he speculates for her. She is described as being jealous of her husband’s money rather than him.




Lawrence Selden

The novel begins with Selden spotting Lily at the train station and their friendship and love is a central concern of the novel. He is characterized by his desire to remain aloof from the shenanigans of high society as he attempts to observe from afar. Despite this preference for aloofness, he is also swayed by the opinion of others rather than the fact of Lily’s innocence.


Lily Bart

As the main protagonist, Lily’s life among the social elite is described as is her final descent into poverty. She was raised to be ornamental rather than useful and like her mother she prefers luxury to dinginess.


Mrs. Haffen

Mrs Haffen is the ‘charwomen’ that Lily comes across at The Benedick and her aunt’s house. She sells Lily the letters from Bertha to Selden.


Mrs.  Peniston

This is Lily’s unforgiving aunt. She changes her will in favor of Grace Stepney when she discovers Lily has been involved in some kind of scandal with the Dorsets.


Nettie Struther

Lily encounters Nettie towards the end of the novel. Nettie has been a recipient of Lily’s charity in the past and she shows her kindness in return.


Percy Gryce

Gryce is a wealthy but uninteresting young man that Lily half-heartedly attempts to entice into marriage.



Rosedale is despised by many in the elite set that Lily consorts with and it is made evident that this is at least in part because he is Jewish. As his fortune increases while others are hit by the downturn in the stock market, he is gradually welcomed by those in this highest circle.


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