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The Disillusion of Lily Bart in the House of Mirth

Author: JiangLinLin
Tutor: XuJing
School: Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications
Course: Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords: Edith Wharton illusion disillusion the "spiritual home"
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Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2009
Downloads: 173
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Abstract


There are few female writers that can tower above Edith Wharton (1862-1937) in the world of American literature at the turn of the twentieth century. Distinguished from other female writers, she was born in the upper-crust society of New York and had deep insight into it. Her works stand up to the test of the time, and turn out to be the classics in modern American fiction. Edith Wharton’s early work, The House of Mirth is her masterpiece. By employing close-reading with the help of the feminist and psycho-analysis concepts, this thesis aims to elaborate on Lily Bart’s disillusion in The House of Mirth and concludes that the root cause of Lily Bart’s death resides in her disillusion with love.Introduction covers a survey of Edith Wharton’s critical scholarship, the scope and focus of the present study.Chapter One "The Social Background at the Turn of the 20th Century" introduces the background information of the socioeconomic milieu and marriage at the turn of the 20th century, which serves as a foil to the following chapters. This chapter elaborates on the criterion of success, women’s status quo and the essence of marriage in America at the turn of the 20th century.Chapter Two "From Illusion to Disillusion" falls into two parts: "Lily’s Illusion" and "Lily’s Disillusion". First, Lily’s illusions with three men are explored respectively. Next, the reasons for her disillusions are discussed, including social and personal concerns. Chapter Two also points out that her illusion is an emblem of her happiness while her disillusion symbolizes her misery. This chapter comes to a conclusion that her disillusion is the beginning of her self-discovery.Chapter Three "Self-discovery out of Disillusion" focuses on three aspects: her rebellion, the transformation of her values, and the discovery of the veritable "spiritual home". Caught in the contradictions between exchange marriage and dignity, Lily transforms her values, and discovers the veritable "spiritual home". First, Lily sees through the essence of most of the upper-crust marriage at the beginning of the twentieth century, in the contradiction between exchange marriage and dignity. Next, this chapter expounds her quest for the veritable spiritual home and her understandings of the real meaning of life and love. The transformation of her values is interpreted through her changes before and after disillusion. This chapter traces to the root cause of her illusions, emotional and spiritual rootlessness.This paper holds that the underlying reason for Lily Bart’s suicide lies in Lily’s disillusion with love, the reason of which is that marriage is the only way out for most of the upper-class girls at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her rebellion and self-awareness symbolizes that Lily Bart is the germ of New Woman. The significance of her disillusion resides in the discovery of the veritable "spiritual home" and her rebirth.

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