Literary Analysis – The House of Mirth

The literary movement of “The House of Mirth” is naturalism or Darwinism. This is social determinism and the survival of the fittest concept, Lily was born into a certain social position.

She is “socially determined” to marry a rich man. According to this, society would have some people that were made for success and others that would have no hope and would become “extinct”. Not long before Wharton wrote the book, Charles Darwin showed that living creatures are born with the tools and techniques to live and function in their lives. For example, fish have gills to be able to breathe underwater; they’re supposed to live under water. A fish is determined to swim and not walk on land. “Heredity” and “environment” would be terms Darwin would use and Wharton would express them as “being born into” and “society”.

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This is the same for Lily, according to Wharton she needs to be the wife of a wealthy man and not something else. She is only destined for one end result and can’t do anything else but be with a rich man. The concept that Lily was brought into the world for one and only one reason. “Lily’s whole being dilated in an atmosphere of luxury; it was the background she required, the only climate she could breath”. Lily is aware of the idea of naturalism because she talks about how it is in her blood and she was born into it. “Why, the beginning was in my cradle, I suppose – in the way I was brought up, and the things I was taught to care for. Or no – I won’t blame anybody for my faults: I’ll say it was in my blood, that I got it from some wicked pleasure-loving ancestress.

“Lily once says that she’s “useless” when she’s taken out of her “environment” – a fish can’t live when it is taken out of water. Lily’s conflict was between her goal, which was wealth, and morality. She was able to adapt into the world.

Because she was poor, orphaned, and single, it was difficult to succeed in the world that wa…