The House of Mirth By Edith Wharton Character Analysis Bertha Dorset, Grace Stepney, Judy Trenor

Bertha Dorset, Grace Stepney, and Judy Trenor are three women who are equally despicable in their treatment of Lily. The women are treated as co-conspirators within a grand cultural and social scheme to worship conspicuous consumption and moral hypocrisy.

Bertha is a major contributor to Lily's downfall by her eagerness to exact revenge on Lily — a revenge borne out of her jealousy of Lily's physical beauty and pleasant demeanor. Angry that Lily has bettered her in European society and eager to hide her infidelity with Ned Silverton, Bertha kills two birds with one stone by fabricating a story that Lily has seduced her husband, George Dorset. Thus ensuring Lily's scandalous society downfall, Bertha compounds her revenge by poisoning Mattie Gormer against Lily.

Despite Bertha's deceitful efforts to outcast Lily, Lily still could survive in society under the right financial circumstances. Grace Stepney, however, sabotages Lily's expected legacy from Mrs. Peniston. Because she rightly believes that her cousin has slighted her by removing her name from the guest list of an important social function, Grace reveals the rumors circulating about Lily to Mrs. Peniston. Mrs. Peniston reacts by pledging the majority of her fortune to Grace instead of Lily. This further complicates Lily's precarious financial situation by forcing her to ask her cousin for an advance on her inheritance — an advance that Grace refuses Lily.

Judy's rebuff of Lily cements the latter's intent to repay Trenor. Thus, Lily not only is broke because of the paltry legacy she receives from Mrs. Peniston, she also is deeply in debt. In addition, it is stated in the novel that Judy does not mind her husband's extramarital flirtations, but becomes incensed when other women — such as Lily and Carry — benefit from his financial skills.

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