The House of Mirth ~ Book I, Chapters X – XIV

The House of Mirth Read-Along

Chapter X

Lily is rather bored at her aunt’s place but is resisting the invitations to Bellomont because of Gus Trenor’s over-familiarity with her.  In a shop, she encounters Gertie Farish, and when Miss Farish tells of the needs of a charitable organization which she supports, in a outpouring of philanthropy, Lily contributes to her cause which gives her a new sensation:

“The satisfaction derived from this act was all that the most ardent moralist could have desired.  Lily felt a new interest in herself as a person of charitable instincts; she had never before thought of doing good with the wealth she had so often dreamed of possessing, but now her horizon was enlarged by the vision of a prodigal philanthropy.”

She accepts an invitation to spend Thanksgiving at a camp in the Adirondacks, which she would never have normally accepted, and, upon her return, is visited by Simon Rosedale.  Her distaste of him is barely disguised, but Rosedale remains amiable and invites her to opening night in his opera box, implying that Gus Trenor would be there also.  He leaves Lily disconcerted in learning that Gus has blabbed about his investments in her name. The night at the opera, Trenor accosts her, insinuating that he wishes to spend time alone with her but she is unknowingly rescued by George Dorset, who extends an invitation from his wife. Lily is marginally surprised but her ire against Bertha has cooled with her possession of the love letters.

New York Pavements Edward Hopper

New York Pavements (1924) Edward Hopper
~ source Wikiart

Chapter XI

As Mrs. Peniston looks out of her upper window to determine the movement of the upper crust, we learn that it had been “a bad autumn on Wall Street” (hmmm … then where are Lily’s gains coming from?) however, Simon Rosedale, with the patience and perseverance of his race, had managed to double his fortune.

Grace Stepney’s dislike for Lily is founded in a perceived dislike from Lily herself based on a dinner party from which Grace was excluded, under Lily’s influence.  Grace arrives at Mrs. Peniston’s to gossip about Lily, linking her with Gus Trenor and George Dorset.  Mrs. Peniston dislikes both confrontation and scenes therefore does not speak with Lily but she is horrified and her resentment against her begins to grow.

Room in New York Edward Hopper

Room in New York (1940) Edward Hopper
~ source Wikiart

Chapter XII

Lily’s bad decisions are beginning to catch up with her, but with a sad lack of responsibility for her own actions, images her troubles began with the enmity of  Bertha Dorset.  However, with Bertha’s invitation, she mended fences and the visit to the Dorsets allowed an opportunity for their social sanction, as she was aware that people were beginning to talk.

Gus Trenor’s attentions are getting out of her control and upon meeting Judy Trenor and sensing a coolness In one whom she considered her best friend, she invites herself to Bellomont to attempt to smooth the waters.  The party at Bellomont is made up of a boring, peevish group who send snide innuendoes towards Lily and being now more sensitive to criticism, Lily is unable to dispel their rancour.  Lily returns to town feeling the whole visit a complete failure.

The Welly Brys have decided to advance into society with a rash quickness and with Mrs. Fisher at the helm, she persuades them to have a party with a “tableaux vivants”, a posing of guests based on famous works of art.  The tactic seems to work and people flock to the Welly Brys, including Lawrence Selden.  While he admires the “tableaux vivants”, Selden sees the one with Lily and longs to speak with her again.  Lily had made herself scarce after her posing, but returns before supper to a praise which she laps up with uncharacteristic pride.  By chance, Selden finds her alone and takes her away, both of them experiencing that unique communion that they had often feel in each other’s company.  Selden confesses his love for her but Lily stays him with “Ah, love me, love me.  But don’t tell me so.” and escapes his company.  Selden decides to leave but encounters Van Alstyne and Gus Trenor leaving too as they criticize their hosts and Trenor, Lily as well.


Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York

Horse Drawn Cabs at Evening, New York Childe Hassam
~ source Wikiart


Chapter XIII

In the morning Lily receives notes from both Judy Trenor and Selden both asking to see her.  After having an internal talk with herself about how she cannot marry Selden and intending to put him off, she sends him a note agreeing to meet and thinking she can put him off later.  She confirms with Judy that she’ll see her that evening, but when she arrives she is met by Gus Trenor who takes her into a room and, in an excited state, begins to complain about how little he is able to meet with her due to circumstances and Lily’s actions.  He stops her from leaving and begins to insinuate that she owes him sexual favours, as he has used his own money to appear like she is making money on her investments, and he says she must have played other men the fool.  He also implies he knows that she’s visited other men in daylight which indicates that Rosedale has revealed her visit to Selden’s apartment.  Lily is truly horrified as she realizes what he is implying.

“She stood silent, frozen to her place.  The words — the words were worse than the touch!  Her heart was beating all over her body – in her throat, her limbs, her helpless useless hands.  Her eyes travelled despairingly about the room — they lit on the bell, and she remembered that help was in call.  Yes, but scandal with it — a hideous mustering of tongues.  No, she must fight her way out alone.  It was enough that the servants knew her to be in the house with Trenor — there must be nothing to excite conjecture in her way of leaving it.”

She speaks words that seem to jolt Trenor out of his madness and she gets him to call a hansom for her, completely shaken to her core.  Upon leaving, she sees a man’s figure which is familiar to her but she is too distressed to think about it.  She compares herself to Orestes dealing with the Furies in the Eumenides and feeling very alone, gives the driver the address of Gertie Farish’s apartment.

New York Street Scene Childe Hassam

New York Street Scene (1890) Childe Hassam
~ source Wikiart

Chapter XIV

Gertie Farish is grateful for Selden’s unusual interest in her and for her blossoming friendship with Lily Bart.  She thinks Lily’s interest in her Girl’s Club indicates a “change of heart” within Lily, a growing of her character and that only her and Selden know “the real Lily.”

We learn a little of Selden’s background, in that he had a wonderful mother who managed the house with little money in a way in which appeared that the family had it.  Selden, upon maturing and finding many ways in which to live without money, found none so palatable as his mother’s way.  While he inherited from his mother a scorn of material objects, his idea of love was that it should satisfy the depths of his nature until it became central to life.  He muses on his note to Lily and in the throes of love, imagines her feelings match his.  He meets Gus Trenor who wants him to dine with him, but when Selden refuses, Selden notices a beastliness about him and is pained when he remembers Trenor’s name has been coupled with Lily’s. When he finds Lily’s note, he is uplifted, wanting to take her “beyond the ugliness, the pettiness, the attrition and corrosion of the soul …”

At dinner at Gertie Farish’s, Selden speaks to her of Lily.  At first, she is charmed and effusive about Lily’s character, but when she realizes that he is only interested in Lily, she feels diminished to nothing and eventually Selden leaves with plans to visit Miss Fisher’s house when he believes Lily is, however he learns she has gone to the Trenor.  He leaves with Van Alstyne and they walk in the direction of the Trenors, only to see Lily in her flight from Gus Trenor leave the building.  The sight leaves them with the wrong impression and Alstyne warns Selden to say nothing.

Gertie meanwhile is fantasizing about marrying Selden but is annoyed that Lily has appeared to get in the way of her dream.  Immediately, Gertie’s view of Lily’s charm, kindness and disinterestedness turns 180 degrees and she sees her as unsympathetic and thoughtless.

Lily arrives at Gertie’s in a wild panic.  The happenings of the night have made her see her actions clearly and she is in the throes or repentence.

“But I am bad — a bad girl — all my thoughts are bad — I have always had bad people about me.  Is that any exuse?  I thought I could manage my own life — I was proud — proud!  but now I’m on their level —-“

In spite of her revulsion and hatred towards Lily, Gertie makes a show of giving her warm tea, a place to sleep and comfort.  It is so disturbing that Lily does not realize that she’s in the house of a viper and thinks that she’s with a dear friend …..

Fifth Avenue, New York

Fifth Avenue, New York (1911) John French Sloan
~ source Wikiart


In this section, the blindness of many of the characters stand out:  Lily would not credit Rosedale’s sensitivity to shades of difference, Mrs. Peniston would never have thought Rosedale would set his designs on Lily; Lily does not perceive the differences in the characters of Grace Stepney and Gertie Farish, etc.

Chapter 11 really resonated with me.  Mrs. Peniston disliked scenes and completely avoided confrontation.  Yet resentments build up in her mind and affect how she feels about and treats Lily.  No one can have a real relationship by avoiding confrontation and if one is grow, one must face and deal with struggles and displeasures.

Ah ha!  Did anyone notice that while Lily’s charms seems to be declining in her normal social world, that they are increasing in another way?  Gertie Farish has a long monologue on how generous and kind Lily has been.  And it wasn’t just from a monetary, arms-length standpoint.  She went to the Girls Club twice with Gertie and was kind to the people there.  A very interesting change in Lily’s previous patterns ….

I was a little surprised at Gertie being labelled a “parasite” by Wharton, a very negative term, indeed!  Initially Gertie, to me, seems to have made the most of her situation and has a positive outlook on life.  She also tries to help others and if her conversation is somewhat limited, her heart is good.  But part way through this section, Gertie’s views of Lily change, exemplifying her meanness and lack of caring: “Reason, judgment, renunciation, all the sane daylight forcres, were beaten back in the sharp struggle for self-preservation.  She wanted happiness —- wanted it as fiercely and unscrupulously as Lily did, but without Lily’s power of obtaining it.  And in her conscious impotence she lay shivering, and hated her friend —-“  Chilling …

I’m very perplexed at how Gus Trenor could have thought Lily would have a romantic interest in him.  She’s never showed an interest and, in fact, avoids him implicitly.  I just don’t get his surprise at her behaviour.



Like Lily, in your life have you ever felt locked into making decisions that you know aren’t good for you but don’t seem to be able to stop?  Can you relate to Lily in this way?

” …. this discovery (of the women in the Girl’s Club with lives so different than Lily’s) gave Lily one of those sudden shocks of pity that sometimes decentralize a life …. But for the moment she ws drawn out of herself by the interest of her direct relation with a world so unlike her own.”  Do you think the lives of these women are really touching Lily, or it is for selfish motives that she immerses herself in this world?  Or both?



“No insect hangs its nest on threads as frail as those which will sustain the weight of human vanity.”

“Grace Stepney’s mind was like a kind of moral fly-paper, to which the buzzing items of gossip were drawn by a fatal attraction, and where they hung fast in the toils of an inexorable memory.” (love this!)

“Miss Bart had in fact been treading a devious way, and none of her critics could have been more alive to the fact than herself, but she had a fatalistic sense of being drawn from one wrong turning to another, without ever perceiving the right road till it was too late to take it.”

“As the pain that can be told is but half a pain, so the pity that questions has little healing in its touch.  What Lily craved was the darkness made by enfolding arms, the silence which is not solitude, but compassion holding its breath.”

“Such flashes of joy as Lily moved in would have blinded Miss Farish, who was accustomed, in the way of happiness, to such scant light as shone through the cracks of other people’s lives.”

(Hoping to get the next post up tomorrow or the next day to catch-up.  Sorry everyone!)

⇐ The House of Mirth – Chapters V – IX 

                                The House of Mirth Book I, Chapter XV-Book II Chapters I-III ⇒


29 thoughts on “The House of Mirth ~ Book I, Chapters X – XIV

  1. I’m very perplexed at how Gus Trenor could have thought Lily would have a romantic interest in him. She’s never showed an interest and, in fact, avoids him implicitly. I just don’t get his surprise at her behaviour.

    This made me laugh because only a woman could write that, or a modern milk sop of a man. (of which I’ve met way too many)
    Every man implicitly believes that every woman wants him, even if intellectually he knows otherwise and morally repudiates the thought. It is part of our psyche. Every man thinks he is He-Man, Master of the Universe.

    That’s how we survive. Otherwise life would just crush us into a pulp 😉

    • Okay, surprisingly you’ve touched on a subject that’s always fascinated me. A male friend once told me that the most unattractive man would always think that he could get a gorgeous model as a girlfriend. This is sooooo opposite of a woman’s view and so beyond my scope of belief. Why? And why can a woman say “no” and almost hit the man over the head with it and he still doesn’t believe her?

      You’ve confirmed what I’ve noticed and been told but I still don’t get it.

      • The answer to “why” is simply “because”.
        I think most men are hardwired with that kind of confidence (that is so easily corrupted into arrogance, etc). A man thinks he is the center of the Universe. It has nothing to do with reality or anything. It simply is.

        As for getting it, I wouldn’t even try. It is just one of those differences between men and women. As long as you realize it is, we can all function 😀

        It is an interesting subject and one that so many people seem hell bent on ignoring in today’s culture, even while it is staring them right in the face.

        • Thanks for attempting to explain the unexplainable, lol! At least it explains the arrogance one sometimes (often) encounters.

          I think women often have less confidence than they should have. Two opposites that I can’t say balance each other out …

  2. I find myself interested in Lily’s response to Rosedale. Is her distaste for him rooted solely in antisemitism, or is there something else there? And is that prejudice entirely Lily’s or is it Wharton’s as well? A lot of the characters in this book aren’t very “likable.” We’ve met adulterers, predators, blackmailers and opportunists. By contrast, Rosedale is always polite when he encounters Lily, and he seems to have made his fortune thanks to hard work and skill. To me he seems far less distasteful than some of the characters that Lily chooses to interact with.

    • I think Lily is on one hand mimicking the society she’s in with her response to Rosedale but she also has an intuitive feeling that she can’t trust him. I’m not sure her thoughts have yet taken her to consider marriage, but if she did marry him she’d be on the outside of society like he is, sort of like she’d be with Selden. Which goes to show that Lily is not ONLY concerned with money but also with position and perhaps even power. But I always have trouble teasing out the thoughts which are truly Lily’s and those which society has imparted to her and that she unquestioningly accepts.

      I don’t get a good feeling about Rosedale but I could be wrong.

      • I don’t get a good feeling either, but I wonder if a lot of those negative feelings that we get about him have to do with the negatives ways in which he’s described. Unlike a lot of the other characters in the book, he hasn’t actually done anything wrong that we known of.

        • I don’t like Rosedale because it appears he gossiped about Lily’s visit to Selden which is not showing love or care towards her. He’s exploiting her, not protecting her. He collects things and I believe Lily is just one more thing to add to his collection. And he cares about money. While Lily realizes she needs money for safety and comfort, I don’t think she really cares about it. She is more interested in comfort and happiness. Also Rosedale wants to be like upper society, but, especially at the end of this section, Lily recognizes the shallowness of it. I can’t see her being happy with Rosedale. I think he appears rather benign because he’s being careful of his behaviour in order to fit in.

          • I don’t see Lily being happy with him either, and I don’t think his interest in Lily is anything other than self serving, don’t get me wrong! I’m just saying that based on behavior we’ve seen far worse from other characters who don’t get nearly as much criticism from Lily/the narrator.

  3. I was taken aback by the author’s description of Gertie, too. I was just beginning to think how Gertie was becoming my favorite character, when there was this character reveal; I understand Gertie’s jealousy – I believe it is human nature – but it was a harsh choice of words. I’m curious what will become of their relationship since Gertie took care of Lily for the night.

    As for Trenor…I think he naturally assumed Lily understood that she did owe him a favor for his good works. He was a very self-centered, narrow-minded man. He probably was overly confident of her reciprocation just because he did what he did, or because of who he was. And maybe in the early 1900s, men were more confident of their advances toward woman; but I still think a real gentleman, no matter how confident, would have never treated Lily so forcefully and offensively. Trenor was/is no gentleman!!!! I don’t think we can put all men in the same basket…even early 1900s men.

    And today’s young men…as per my husband…are even less confident w/ women b/c they have been raised to believe that (no matter what they say or do) they are going to be offensive to women; hence, they have become extremely lazy about pursuing women. In the interim, they don’t have to do anything because at some point women will do the advancing; literally, women and men have switched roles, making it safe for men.

    • I understand Gertie’s jealousy but I thought the change too abrupt. Gertie is too used to helping people and thinking of others for such a drastic switch in such a short time. I wish Wharton had developed this part a little more.

      I must admit that I was surprised at Trenor’s actions and had expected him to do exactly what he said he’d do for his wife’s good friend. I was REALLY surprised. Call me naive but I could understand Lily’s shock. What does surprise me is that if this society is so devoid of morals how did Lily get to the age of 29 without experiencing this behaviour so that it IS a shock to her?

      Interesting observations. I, too, think men and women are switching roles and it makes everything so much more complicated!

      • I agree. It was abrupt. Too uncharacteristic of the kind of woman Wharton had initially portrayed. But maybe there was a reason. Maybe Gertie was showing her true colors, too? There is much superficiality in this cast of characters: could Gertie be no better?

        Don’t know why Lily wasn’t abreast yet of such unscrupulous men. Really, I think Trenor is just the worst of the worst. He doesn’t take no for an answer.

        • I do think Lily should have known much more than she appears to at 29 years old. However, I’m just going to go with Wharton. I believe Lily’s naiveté is genuine; that she’s kept it so long perhaps can speak to the goodness of her character, but I think it could also be part of her practiced ability to deny what is possible if it’s not pleasant. But Wharton doesn’t speak to this point, so we won’t know.

  4. I’m afraid I find Gus Trenor’s certainty not surprising either. I do think the world’s gotten a bit better on this since 1900… 😉 but that type isn’t so hard to find even now. Certainly he’s not a gentleman. But he has simply given her money–I think the pretence of investing for her is just that, a pretence–and the amounts are pretty significant. A man like that would think he owned the woman. (Heck, somebody like that might even get elected president in a country to the south of here.) I think Lily was being a bit naive that she didn’t see how it would play out in advance and how it might appear to others. (Though not impossibly or blame-ably naive.)

    Do you think Lily’s acts of charity represents a real change in her? I’m not sure I do, though I would hope so and would think it good for her. But I think it would take more than some easily acquired money and two visits to Gertie’s soup kitchen to mark a real change in Lily’s sensibilities. She’s not stingy, but she’s only generous and thinking of others when there isn’t much cost to it.

    I’m slightly uncomfortable with the presentation of Simon Rosedale. He seems a little bit too much a Jew from central casting. I try to remind myself we’re mostly seeing him through the eyes of upper class Protestant New York in 1900, which would be anti-Semitic, but so far we haven’t seen any other side of him either.

    There are two allusions to the Eumenides! Makes me want to go back and reread it. Poking around I found an article by Edmund Wilson from just after she died and he said Wharton was very taken with the Eumenides–he didn’t cite examples–I wonder if it’s true elsewhere in Wharton. But it’s certainly true here!

    • I seem to remember that it was mentioned that other women had made money in this way so Lily thought she could too. I may be as naive as Lily but I didn’t see it going the way it did.

      I’ve been hoping these little windows of depth of character that Lily shows work towards changing her into a better person. But to be a better person she would have to reject society and where would that leave her? Yipes!

      I think Rosedale’s rather a flat character. He’s interested in money and getting accepted into society. Not very deep to me.

      I love The Oresteia! The reference to The Furies chasing Orestes was so effective! However at the end of the play they’re changed to “The Kindly Ones”. I have a feeling we’re no going to see that here. Thanks for the info! I’ll have to try to find that article. And I’d love to read a biography on Wharton, perhaps in the new year!

  5. One of the interesting, but personally unsettling things happening to me with this rereading is that originally, I had such sympathy for Lily as a victim of circumstance, of her time period. But now, as I read more closely, she is making me really mad.

    Previously, I tried to look at her through the lens in which Wharton wrote, in that there are so many societal mores that prevent her from being honest about what is happening to her; that she can’t, for example tell someone about Gus tricking her and so on.
    Is it that she is just too proud to tell Gerty or Selden about Gus or any of the other things that happen/will happen to her? Or is she just trying to martyr herself?

    Yet, still, in chapter XI there is that one line of Mrs. Peniston’s that I can’t let go of that sums up the unfairness of these times and the devastating effect on a young woman that can set her up for failure regardless of the truth in a situation, because she has no control. “It was horrible of a young girl to let herself be talked about; however unfounded the charges against her, she must be to blame for their having been made.” This also feels very feminist and I wonder if it is a vocalization by Wharton of a troubling issue that befalls women in real life. At the end of the terrifying exchange with Trenor she sees a bell, but realizes she can’t call for help, because “a scandal with it–a hideous mustering of tongues. No, she must fight her way out alone. It was enough that the servants knew her to be in the house with Trenor–there must be nothing to excite conjecture in her way of leaving it.”

    As for Gus Trenor having a romantic interest in Lily, I think that is not what is motivating him. He wants her attention, because he thinks she owes him and because she has spent time alone with Selden (thank you Rosedale) he is confused as to why she is confused about spending time with him. So it’s not about whether she is actually attracted to him, but she should act like it, give him time and attention ‘like she does to other men.’

    I also thought that line about Grace Stepney was so good!

    • I so know what you mean, Laurie! For the most part I’ve kept my sympathy for Lily though. She’s really caught between a rock and a hard place. She intrinsically knows that society is shallow and bad and does not bring happiness but she needs money to survive and prosper and for that she needs society. It’s as if she can’t live without this society, yet at the same time, she can’t live in it. So she struggles back and forth and vacillates back and forth. In spite of appearing so flighty, I believe Lily’s experiencing an important inner struggle that is much more than it appears on the surface.

      Do you think Gus Trenor wanted sexual favours from her or just attention? With the determination that Lily avoided him, I suspected the former but even having her name linked with his was fatal so perhaps not? I’m not sure.

      I do believe Lily’s character is growing with some of the challenges she’s had to face but perhaps in a way that’s not immediately recognizable. We’ll see ….

      • “Do you think Gus Trenor wanted sexual favours from her or just attention?”

        This is such a good question, because I find it hard not to look at that situation with 21st century eyes, as I know what you mean about ‘just attention.’ And you’re right, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time is problematic enough for a woman at that time.

        All Lily has to do is give him attention in public, so he doesn’t have to ask for it in private. It seems like a little flirting, even with someone else’s husband is allowed, considered a compliment even. But she finds herself so repulsed by these men and the ‘show’ she has to put on, she can’t do that.

        • I don’t know if Lily giving him attention in public would have satisfied him. Do you remember when he said he wanted another drive with her like they had, alone, and getting her to Bellomont would have presented many opportunities to get her alone. Even if he didn’t specifically want sex at the beginning (and I’m not so sure) it would have come to that eventually.

          Lily is right to be repulsed. But it’s sad because she is made to feel that she is at fault.

  6. Wow… a lot to unpack here… fantastic thoughts/discussion as always!

    To your questions:

    1) Yes…nothing too major (thankfully) but I’ve been there. It’s an awful feeling and always looks worse in hindsight, because you don’t like to think of yourself as having been weak and vulnerable.

    2) Both. I’m sure her sudden wealth made Lily feel suddenly benevolent, genuinely so. But I think she also a) feels guilty for how she acquired it, so uses charity to appease her conscience, and b) gets a sense of elation expressing her separation from “the masses.”

    I have a great deal of empathy for Gertie. She is probably capable of getting Selden to fall for her, over time, but she is not a manipulative person like Lily, and so she won’t.

    Trenor is a cad, and a mediocre one at that. But see, I think Lily sensed that going in. In establishing this secret financial relationship with an unhappily married man (however innocuous on the surface), she was playing with fire and got burned. I can’t say I feel sorry for her in that situation.

    In Rosedale, she seems to have met her match, no pun intended. He’s also a social ladder climber, only more successful, in part due to his business skills and gender. Having finished the book, there’s more I could say about him but I’ll save it for future installments. 🙂

    • For #1, me too and good observations for #2!

      Didn’t Gertie’s jealousy and her near hatred towards Lily turn you off her? However, at least she did sort of help her in the end.

      I think Lily’s initial motives were understandable with Trenor. Other women had made money that way and he’s her “best” friend’s husband. I assume she kept putting off his advances and not really dealing with them because she wanted him to keep investing for her. Perhaps not wise, but understandable.

      Rosedale in some ways is the same as Lily, but I believe Lily has an untapped depth to her that he doesn’t. We’ll see.

      If you notice, all the negative “press” towards Lily is, so far, incorrect assumptions and mistaken conclusions. Lily is flawed but I believe no more flawed than the rest of us. Wharton is brilliant as she gets the reader judging Lily almost like society is judging Lily. Rather clever, I’d say.

      • You know… it sounds crazy/weird but Gertie’s jealousy made me like her even more. 😀 It was that moment, for me, she stopped appearing as an insipid do-gooder and became a real person, capable of being in love, hurt, and even fiercely jealous. And, she didn’t act on it, which redeemed her weakness.

        Yes, the duality of Lily’s character is fantastically written – I didn’t like her, but I was also rooting for her. Her motives and background are so nuanced, you can’t help but feel some sympathy.

        • And the way you feel about Gertie, I feel the same way about Lily. Imagine that you have no parents … no family, only an aunt who doesn’t really care about you other than how you reflect on her. Lily is so alone, penniless really, as her only income (excluding Trenor) is from her aunt. I can then understand her behaviour, her desire to make herself comfortable and stable, yet her repulsion of having to choose a husband for this means. I like her alot.

  7. i was curious about Trenor’s backdown in the interview with Lily: i actually expected him to be more forceful but instead he flopped down into a puddle of jello, and it wasn’t because Lily mastered him, it was something inside him, like the archetype he’d grown up with failed him and left him totally confused and unmanned, in a word… and yet Lily feels this great sense of having to repay him, when she actually never knew for sure where the money came from; it could very well have been thrown off by investments. am i misremembering, but didn’t Lily give him some money to invest? Anyway, lots of approaches to this interesting book, and the comments have been most enlightening…

    • Oh, me too! He was after her with all guns blazing and then he sort of crumpled. Was it Lily’s words that stayed him? At first, I thought so but then he mentions old habits and old restraints and the hand of inherited order. It’s as if all of a sudden he’s come to his senses.

      I wonder if it WAS something in Lily’s words that brought reality upon him. I’m not sure.

      Does anyone else have any thoughts on this one?

      Lily does seem to believe that the money she received came from investments and she’s shocked when she finds out the money is his. That’s why she feels the need to repay him otherwise she’ll always owe him something and already what he’s asking for in repayment of the debt is much more than she’s willing to give. She may be naive but I believe she’s sincere in this case.

    • That whole scene was awfully (intentionally) uncomfortable. Honestly I was expecting the worst. I almost wonder if Wharton put the brake on it for the sake of publication, because in real life, I don’t see Trenor backing down.

      I don’t think Lily thought the money was coming out of Trenor’s account, but it seemed like she always had a sense that something untoward might come out of the arrangement, and she too willingly hid behind her ignorance of money management.

      • Lily was probably hoping it would all go smoothly. And she was finally making money that was her own. It must have made her feel independent. To give that up would be hard for anyone in her position, I think.

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear from you and have you join in the discussion!