Allusions In The House Of Mirth

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“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (New King James Version, Eccl. 7:4). From this wise Biblical proverb stems the title of Edith Wharton’s 1905 novel The House of Mirth. The narrative examines Lily Bart, a seemingly wealthy and confident young woman actually plagued by self-hatred and debt. The common literary allusions “gliding the lily” and “consider the lilies” highlight these negative attributes. These allusions and their corresponding revelations about Lily Bart’s life help readers better understand events in her life. This is seen most significantly in her exceptional act at the tableau vivant and the collapse of her relationship with her aunt.
“Gilding the lily” is arguably
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Indeed, “Solomon in his glory was not arrayed like [Lily]” but she toiled not, neither spun for her glorious trimmings (New King James Version, Luke 12:27). Instead, her wealthy aunt Julia Peniston funded her expensive wardrobe, as well as providing room and board. Mrs. Peniston was perfectly happy with this arrangement—“it seemed to her natural that Lily should spend all her money on dress” (Wharton 48). But after hearing scandalous rumors about her niece, Mrs. Peniston revoked her financial support, reluctantly agreeing to settle nothing more than the the dress-maker’s debts. After this callous rejection, Lily quickly descended through the social stratosphere. And though she eventually had to toil and spin—first as a secretary, then as a milliner—she was never able to return to her former glory. Thus, it’s evident that Lily had a great dependency on her faulty social circle—and when they failed her, she became nothing. To conclude, Lily Bart’s life is summed up in two common literary allusions. “Gilding the lily” personifies her hiding behind luxury to conceal her self-hatred. And “consider the lilies” displays her dependency on others, which led to her rapid social and financial decline. These phrases competently encompass all of Edith Wharton’s social