The House of Mirth Themes

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As seen in The House of Mirth, women in early twentieth-century society had little chance to play any role other than wife and mother. The female leaders of society, Judy Trenor and Bertha Dorset, derive their power and social standing from their marriages. The women who work as companions, such as Carry Fisher, have been married in the past. Lily's only goal in life, the only "profession" for which she has been trained, has been to make a good marriage. When she fails to reach this achievement, she has no skills or even inner resources upon which to draw. Though she attempts to work, first as a professional companion and then as a milliner's assistant, her attempts are woefully inadequate, and Lily sinks deeper and deeper into poverty.

Only a few women in the novel choose alternate paths. Nettie Struther, a working-class woman, works out of her...

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This section contains 810 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The House of Mirth Study Guide
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The House of Mirth from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.