The House of Mirth: Top Ten Quotations

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  1. There was nothing new about Lily Bart, yet he could never see her without a faint movement of interest: it was characteristic of her that she always roused speculation, that her simplest acts seemed the result of far-reaching intentions.p. 3In this early reference to Lily, the reader is introduced to her ability to manipulate and plan for her future. Selden has seen her at Grand Central Station and is clearly entertained by her desire for success.
  2. She was so evidently the victim of the civilisation which had produced her, that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate.p.7Selden recognizes the extent to which Lily is tied to material concerns and sees it is a folly to suggest that she live independently but without wealth like his cousin, Gerty Farish.

  3. She had hated dinginess, and it was her fate to be dingy.p. 33 This is a description of Lily’s mother and may also be ascribed to Lily.

  4. Her aunt’s words had told her nothing new; but they had revived the vision of Bertha Dorset, smiling, flattered, victorious, holding her up to ridicule by insinuations intelligible to every member of their little group.p. 104.Lily has just been told by her aunt that Percy Gryce is to marry Evie Van Osburgh and Bertha managed the engagement as she invited them both to stay with her. Lily assumes correctly that Bertha has poisoned Gryce against her in order to punish her for monopolizing Selden at Bellomont.

  5. She was realising for the first time that a woman’s dignity may cost her more to keep up than her carriage; and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents made the world appear a more sordid place than she had conceived it.p. 160.This quotation comes the day after Lily realizes that Trenor has not being giving her money from wise speculations as she presumed. He has been paying her with his own money and has expected her thanks to come in terms of a physical relationship.

  6. Moral complications existed for her only in the environment that had produced them; she did not mean to slight or ignore them, but they lost their reality when they changed their background.p. 185.Lily’s ability to be blinkered in her moral outlook is highlighted here. This comes at a time when Lily has accepted Bertha’s invitation to join them on a trip to Europe and this situation reiterates her ability to push ‘reality’ into the background.
  7. The strident setting of the restaurant, in which their table seemed set apart in a special glare of publicity, and the presence at it of little Dabham of the ‘Riviera Notes’, emphasised the ideals of a world in which conspicuousness passed for distinction, and the society column had become the roll of fame.p. 204.The superficial but high value placed on the actions of the elite of society is encapsulated in this reference. It is also worth noting that it is after this meal that Lily is snubbed by Bertha in public view.

  8. "What is truth? Where a woman is concerned, it’s the story that’s easiest to believe. In this case it’s a great deal easier to believe Bertha Dorset’s story than mine, because she has a big house and an opera box, and it’s convenient to be on good terms with her.’p. 213.In this quotation, Lily explains to Gerty how the hypocrisy of her set means that the married and wealthier woman will be believed as she has the greater influence.

  9. Society did not turn away from her, it simply drifted by, preoccupied and inattentive, letting her feel, to the full measure of her humbled pride, how completely she had been the creature of its favour.p. 248.Lily begins to feel increasingly isolated at this point and is aware that the Gormers will soon relinquish her as they continue to climb the social ladder.

  10. Since she had been brought up to be ornamental, she could hardly blame herself for failing to serve any practical purpose; but the discovery put an end to her consoling sense of universal efficiency.p.280Lily’s upbringing is questioned here as is the preference for the beautiful feminine woman rather than the useful working one in the wider society.

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