They traveled in the same social circles, wrote about similar kinds of people, held the same values, and dealt with many of the same themes, particularly innocence versus experience.James, however, placed more emphasis upon the individual within the society than on the society itself.Hardly lacking for opportunities to marry well, Lily nevertheless manages to sabotage her best chances, as she does in bungling her courtship with Percy Gryce, an eminently eligible but overwhelmingly boring pillar of the community.
Perhaps the strongest bond between these two writers lies in their mutual devotion to the art of fiction, their continual study of the novel’s form, and their interest in the technique and processes of art.
As a realist, Wharton describes the houses, fashion, and social rituals of “old New York” in minute detail, studying this small stratum of society as an anthropologist might study a South Sea island. everything concerning the manners and customs of his little tribe had seemed to him fraught with world-wide significance.” He describes his own wedding as “a rite that seemed to belong to the dawn of history.” Archer’s use of this anthropological jargon reveals Wharton’s almost scientific fascination with the social milieu.
Both a meticulously thorough examination of a complex social structure and a brilliant character study, it offers a compelling exploration of the effects of social conformity upon the individual.
As the novel opens, its heroine, twenty-nine-year-old Lily Bart, has achieved the height of her powers: Beautiful, intelligent, charming, and sought after, she has nevertheless reached a turning point, knowing too well that society has no place for an unmarried woman past her prime.
Newland Archer often muses on the peculiar demands and expectations placed on women.
Romeo And Juliet Essay Introduction - Wharton Essay
When he declares, “Women ought to be free—as free as we are,” Wharton notes that he is “making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure the terrific consequences.” May Welland Archer is yet another victim—in this case, of her husband’s narrow definition of her character—and Ellen Olenska is the victim of society’s preconceptions of a woman’s behavior., for example, abounds in anthropological terminology, as the protagonist, Newland Archer, reveals when reflecting that “there was a time when . Similarly, in , structured as a series of scenes that reflect the social status of its heroine, Lily Bart, Wharton meticulously records even the finest lines between classes, noting that “the difference [between them] lay in a hundred shades of aspect and manner, from the pattern of the men’s waistcoats to the inflexion of the women’s voices.” Although no such subtlety of detail exists in the very different world of , a nevertheless fixed and immovable social structure offers the novel’s protagonist no avenue of escape from his equally barren business and marriage.In all these novels, the elaborate rituals that sustain a culture protect tradition and stabilize the society, but they also constrict the freedom of the individual within that society.Although not involved in the feminist movement of her day, Wharton’s preoccupation with the limiting effects of societal restrictions on the human soul necessarily invokes feminist issues, for women especially suffered under this society’s narrow boundaries.Lily Bart, for example, finds her options severely limited because of her gender; even taking tea alone with a man in his apartment results in social condemnation.The House of Mirth First published: 1905 Type of work: Novel , Wharton’s second full-length novel, not only guaranteed her literary reputation but also established the setting and themes she would explore throughout her career.Set in the early twentieth century New York society with which she was so intimately familiar, the novel offers an angrier and more bitter condemnation of this social milieu than Wharton’s later work, which mellowed with the passage of time.A product of her society, “at once vigorous and exquisite, at once strong and fine . As Lily can neither totally accept her society’s values nor be hypocritical enough to survive without doing so, she finally must perish.Lily’s fall from social grace is incremental rather than precipitous, occurring gradually as she makes small compromises in order to survive.The principal theme of Wharton’s fiction involves the individual in society: how personal relationships are distorted by societal conventions, the clash between changing characters and fixed society, and the conflict between nature and culture.Wharton therefore stands a bridge between an older, more established nineteenth century world and the world of the twentieth century, which placed increasing emphasis on individual experience.