Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth serves as a strict model of etiquette for high society in the Gilded Age

Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth serves as a strict model of etiquette for high society in the Gilded Age. It teaches one the intricate art of keeping up appearances and assimilating into the fickle leisure class. At the same time, the novel’s underlying purpose is to subtly critique this social order. Lily Bart’s perpetual, although often reluctant quest for financial stability and mass approval is a vehicle for demonstrating the numerous absurdities and constant pretensions of a class that revolved around money and opinion.

Lily Bart embodies the enormous tension between old and new money that was so prevalent during the 1880’s. Since

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