Upper Class Desires: Edith Wharton Essay

2262 words - 10 pages

Edith Wharton was a writer in the 1900’s a time in which the social status of one was extremely importanant. Edith Wharton herself was a member of the upper class but she criticizes the importance that people place on it. Through The House of Mirth and her characters the reader can determine the people Lily sees and interacts with are the same clas and type of people that Wharton would see on a daily basis. In Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth Wharton criticizes the values people place upon joining and remaining in the upper class. Lily, like many others, wants to be a part of this luxurious lifestyle; however her desire for wealth and social standing becomes her downfall. Wharton uses Lily as an example to illustrate how ones yearning for fortune and power will conceal from themselves what is truly important.
which wealth and fortune were ones main priority. In 1862 Christened Edith Newbold Jones was born. Edith was the only daughter of upper class parents who descended from “old New York families”. Since her family was wealthy she had all the amenities one could wish for. At the age of seventeen she emerged from her household, and began looking for a husband. Once she married “her future seemed clear” (Ammons). Wharton’s role in life would have been a wife and a mother. Knowing the status of women from a historical standpoint, the reader can infer that Wharton, through Lily is illustrating a typical woman in a male dominant society, referring to herself. Wharton’s parents did not take much to art and literature and they “distrusted emotion” (Ammons). Wharton’s parents represent the common individual in the upper class. The main priority was for them to keep and accumulate more money. Unlike most women in the society Wharton was unhappy with the current situation she was in so she filed for a divorce. The divorce while hard on her husband ultimately became the best decision for Wharton. Wharton’s marital unhappiness encouraged an affair with a younger man, which is illustrated in her novel. During her lifetime Wharton had cumulatively published “eighteen novels and novellas, eleven volumes of short stories, a handful of poems, numerous essays, a memoir, and several books of argument and analysis” (Ammons) Wharton is a product of her time and illustrates in her numerous works the social, political, and economic rise and falls of that time period. Most of the works from the early 1900’s illustrate he view of the world (Tuttleton).
Edith Wharton criticizes the importance people place on advancing their social status as they ignore what values should be most important. Throughout The House of Mirth, the main character Lily is blinded by the idea of being in the upper class New York elite. During this time period, the easiest way for a women to move social classes would be to marry a wealthy man, which is just what Lily intends to do. From the beginning of the novel Lily is on a hunt searching for a wealthy eligible bachelor during, “mating...

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