Study Help Essay Questions


1. Does the original epigraph for The House of Mirth — from the Old Testament Ecclesiastes 7:4: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth" — help to explain the novel's intentions? Why or why not?

2. Do Wharton's themes of blindly adhering to social conventions during the Gilded Age in The House of Mirth share similiarites with contemporary society? Be specific, and try not to limit your discussion to the differences between the upper, middle, and economically disadvantaged classes.

3. Many critics view The House of Mirth as an indictment of the Gilded Age's objectification and social entrapment of the female of the species. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Be sure to use specific examples from the book to support your response.

4. If Lily had survived the chloral overdose and married Lawrence Selden, would the pair have enjoyed a successful marriage? Why or why not?

5. Wharton's depiction of Simon Rosedale has caused her to be labeled an anti-Semite. Is her portrayal of Rosedale meant to incriminate and disparage American Jews or is it merely an attempt to satirize the nouveau riche?

6. Much feminist criticism has been written about Wharton's novel. Does The House of Mirth deal exclusively with feminist issues? Support your arguments by discussing Lily's use of tobacco, and her statement in the first chapter: "What a miserable thing it is to be a woman!"

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