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Lily and Becky: A Flower and a Weed

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  1. Introduction
  2. A case in the contrary
  3. The character of Rebecca
  4. Tthe situation between Bertha and Ned
  5. Lily Bart contrary to Rebecca
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works cited

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. [...]

[...] Lily went from deploring the working class people to coming to a sense of ?such imaginative empathy and communion is new to Lily, and it replaces altogether her former distaste for working-class people and scenes. The result is a "surprised sense of human fellowship" that "took the mortal chill from her heart" (Gerard) After the realization she loses it, though probably not on purpose. She receives the $10,000 check and writes out her own to Gus Trenor to pay off her own debts. [...]

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