House of Mirth (Wharton)

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Mrs. Wharton's serial in Scribner's [magazine], "The House of Mirth," develops in a rather grim fashion.... Nevertheless, we must be grateful for these glimpses of the inner social circle, given by one who has the magic password. "The House of Mirth," indeed, must be accepted as a "document" and it's descriptions of the functions and foibles of "our best society" will surely be treasured by historians as testimony.
New York Times (4/1/1905)

Lily's rather violent tumble down the social ladder provides a thumbnail sketch of the general injustices of the upper classes (which, incidentally, Wharton never quite manages to condemn entirely, clearly believing that such life is cruel but without alternative). From her start as a beautiful woman at the height of her powers to her sad finale as a recently fired milliner's assistant addicted to sleeping drugs, Lily Bart is heroic, not least for her final admission of her own role in her downfall. —Melanie Rehak
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