13 May

What does the central character (or characters want?
What is standing in his (or her) way?  (
WEM, pg. 73)

Recognize those WEM questions?
Edith Wharton helps us with one of the answers in chapter 8.

If Lily Bart wants a wealthy husband and the acceptance of her peers,
then what’s standing in her way?

Perhaps the question is who is standing in her way?

“I envy Gerty that power she has of dressing up with romance all our ugly and prosaic arrangements!  I have never recovered my self-respect since you showed me how poor and unimportant my ambitions were.”

The words were hardly spoken when she realized their infelicity.  It seemed to be her fate to appear at her worst to Selden.

“I thought, on the contrary,” he returned lightly, “that I had been the means of proving they were more important to you than anything else.”

“It was as if the eager current of her being had been checked by a sudden obstacle which drove it back upon itself.  She looked at him helplessly, like a hurt or frightened child: this real self of hers, which he had the faculty of drawing out of the depths, was so little accustomed to go alone!

There you have it.

Selden = obstacle

Okay, maybe it’s a little more complicated than that.  Selden intentionally “holds a mirror” up to Lily.  With him, she admits who she truly is.  He removes her mask, and she’s forced to look at herself.

Maybe it is that simple.

Selden = obstacle

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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in The House of Mirth


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