The House of Mirth (Penguin classics)
A black comedy of manners about vast wealth and a woman who can define herself only through the perceptions of others. The beautiful Lily Bart lives among the nouveaux riches of New York City-people whose millions were made in railroads, shipping, land speculation, and banking. In this morally and aesthetically bankrupt world, Lily, age twenty-nine, seeks a husband who can satisfy her cravings for endless admiration and all the trappings of wealth. Her quest comes to a scandalous end when she is accused of being the mistress of a wealthy man. Exiled from her familiar world of artificial conventions, Lily finds life impossible. Lily Bart is the embodiment of woman as a passive creature, as the ultimate "consumer item." In her introduction, Cynthia Griffin Wolff relates the genesis of this character to the circumstances of Edith Wharton's own life.
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