Monday, May 13, 2013

The House of Mirth: Book Two


I have come to the conclusion of The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, and this is my summary of the chapter summaries for Book Two.  Beware of spoilers!

To read part one, see Book One summary.

Thinking it easier to run from her troubles, Lily vacations in Europe with Bertha Dorset, who uses Lily to distract her husband, George, so that she, Bertha, may flirt with young, intriguing Ned Silverton. 

Bertha is like a spoiled child who has to be the center of attention, and when she sees that Lily is reaping attention from the royals she accuses Lily of acting inappropriately with her husband; hence Bertha now has reason to expel Lily from the group.

Then Aunt Julia dies.  Before her death, she heard about the rumored affair between Lily and George and assumes it to be true.  She altered her will and left enough to Lily to cover her debt with Mr. Trenor.  But she left everything to the Stepney’s, including the house, leaving Lily no place to live.

Rosedale knows that Bertha is spreading lies about Lily, and he reminds Lily that she has power over Bertha if she would expose Bertha’s love letters to Lawrence; but Lily, using principle, will not hurt Bertha or Lawrence.  Besides, Lily believes that Bertha will always have the upper hand because of her wealth; and wealth is power.

Carry Fisher helps Lily find work, and Gerty Farish asks Lawrence to help Lily.  Lawrence visits Lily, and is cold toward her, though he suggests she leave her employment because her employer is involved with the group of high society that ostracized Lily.  Lily does leave, but not before she is blamed for something that she had no part.  Now her relationship with Lawrence is strained, too.

Her friends find her new employment sewing hats, and Lily now lives meagerly in a boarding house.  She is worn out, run down, and extremely lonely.  Eventually, she is let go from this job.

Lily has hit bottom.  She visits Lawrence to confess her folly.  She is not herself, though she does something noble with the love letters from Bertha; she destroys them.  

Finally, Lily receives her inheritance and, even in her dire situation, knows it is right to prepare a deposit and write out a check to Trenor.  She does and leaves it for the night.  She takes an extra dose of sleep aid to relieve her sleeplessness and thinks about what she remembers she wanted to tell Lawrence.

Meanwhile, Lawrence arrives the next morning to tell Lily what he also realized he wanted to tell her: that he loves her.   But it is too late: Lily will never wake again.

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