Lily regards Lawrence Selden as her moral compass, a regard that is ill-advised. While he makes critical observations of the wealthy, he also rigidly and hypocritically adheres to their code of behavior — a code that he subsequently applies to Lily after Bertha falsely accuses her of seducing her husband.
Selden is revealed to be a collector of first-edition books, and the reader should draw the conclusion that Selden intends to collect Lily as another rare and beautiful object. While it is not doubted that he eventually comes to actually love Lily, he engages in such an infuriatingly indecisive and indirect approach while trying to court her that Lily is alternately flattered and insulted.
Selden can be dim in matters of love. He is unaware that his cousin, Gerty, has fallen in love with him, although such a fact should not escape him. When he finally makes up his mind to once again pledge his love for Lily, he is one day late.