The beautiful, much-desired Lily Bart has been raised to be one of the perfect wives of the wealthy upper class, but her spark of character and independent drive prevents her from becoming one of the many women who will succeed in those circles. Though her desire for a comfortable life means that she cannot marry for love without money, her resistance to the rules of the social elite endangers her many marriage proposals. As Lily spirals down into debt and dishonor, her story takes on the resonance of classic tragedy.
The House of Mirth is a lucid, disturbing analysis of the stifling limitations imposed upon women of author Edith Wharton's generation. Herself born into Old New York Society, Wharton watched as an entirely new set of people living by new codes of conduct entered the metropolitan scene. In telling the story of Lily Bart, Wharton recasts the age-old themes of family, marriage, and money in ways that transform the traditional novel of manners into an arrestingly modern tale of one woman's struggle to succeed.