William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair was published in book form for the first time in 1848, and was available in serialized editions one year prior. Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth was published in 1905 making it highly likely that Wharton was aware of Vanity Fair and the main character of that novel Becky Sharp. The House of Mirth similarly uses a female character as its main protagonist and they seem to be very good foil characters in that both of them are looking to cement themselves into a high standing in the society in which they live. The difference between the two women is that they come from different countries, England and the United States. They are both outsides looking for a way into the circle, although they both have ins, they want ways to stay there. Could it be the case, because of how these two women were written, that American women in the aristocracy are better than English women of the aristocracy? The more likely result of a reading of these two novels is that both are equally as bad. The reasoning for this is Rebecca is in the circle at times and she is a woman who lacks moral integrity, and Lily is part of the group but she is being forced out and she is a person who though she is misconceived by many of those around her is of good character.
[...] Lily wanted to be rich for a long time, she wanted to have money and social standing and to find someone who loved her at the same time as marrying her, but also afforded her those privileges. She came up with nothing. Unreal desires, and expectations seemed to be a theme among the two characters and it both led to their down fall. Lily eventually died from sleeping pills because the stress was too much to allow her to sleep. [...]
[...] It would seem that in Lily, Wharton has created a character with the imaginative potential for transcendence, but whose outlets of individual expression have been so limited by her materialistic upbringing and environment that she has become shallow, inconsistent, and self-centered. (Gerard) This is only how it seems though. Admittedly she does want money, she wants to marry well and she is worried about her image among the people around her. She is, however, a victim. She is born into a society that by tradition will shun her. [...]
[...] As well as skipping out on hotel bills and renting a house without the ability to pay the rent until the owner is thrown into prison for his own debts. The list is longer but those should suffice. Lily on the other hand does things for the good of other people despite the negatives that happen to her except for one instance. That instance and a situation that reflects poorly on Lily's character is when she refuses to help George break off his marriage with Bertha. [...]
[...] If we go back to the situation between Bertha and Ned for a moment we can gain see a glimpse of Lily being a good person. The issue at hand is the love letters that Bertha wrote to Selden, that Lily has in her possession. This is an occasion where Lily does not want to bring that information into the public eye and for good reason. A man, Selden, who she has feelings for is linked to Bertha and problems would arise. [...]
[...] Besides Becky Sharp starting from a background of poverty, and Lily try to stay where Becky wants to be, they are different because Becky uses everyone to get to the riches she wants whereas, Lily is used and doesn't do anything she could have to damage the credibility or lives of those around. It was the various meetings, and the flirtatiousness that was shown in the first part of the novel that gave this impression but I was happy to see that it was not the case. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee