The House of Mirth By Edith Wharton Summary and Analysis Book 1: Chapter V

Summary

Lily attempts to further her designs on Gryce by accompanying the Trenors' daughters to church. She believes that Gryce will see how beautiful she looks while peering through long eyelashes over a hymnal and wearing a modest gray dress, and will fall hopelessly in love with her.

In an act of rebellion intended to increase Gryce's longing for her, however, Lily purposely misses the omnibus that takes the group of churchgoers to Sunday services. Instead, she interrupts a private conversation between Selden and Bertha, much to the delight of the former and the consternation of the latter.

Lily then sets out on foot for the church, hoping to catch Gryce returning from services. She is met by Selden, who surmises that Lily has designs on Gryce. Gryce does indeed return from church on foot, but as part of a group led by Lady Cressida that also includes the Trenors' daughters. Selden, recognizing that their earlier conversation about Americana was due to Lily's interest in snaring Gryce, offers to further his tutelage at length that afternoon.

Analysis

In this chapter, Wharton further satirizes the lives and attitudes of New York society. Lily misses the omnibus that takes the group to church services in order to increase Gryce's longing for her, but the action may also be interpreted as Wharton's attempt to point out the hypocrisy of a social group that attends church on a regular basis without practicing Christian teachings. Her narrator points out that society may be scandalized by the divorces of Carry, but that it will forgive such indiscretions if the remarriage is into greater wealth.

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