Week 17–End of Semester Timelines and Edith Wharton

Take a deep breath!!! You made it to the end of the first semester and you are still alive 🙂 You learned a lot. You read a lot. You wrote a lot. And you even smiled a lot. Life is good.


1.) This week I want you to finish working on your Timelines. Please make them nice 🙂 I gave you this project instead of a grueling comprehensive exam.

So be happy!!!

Here is a link to the instructions for your timeline assignment, which you probably are almost done with because I thought they were due this week!

Just a word of caution though, do not attempt to turn in your timeline on a single sheet of notebook or computer paper. Use poster board or something that says that you mean business, and your business is blowing my mind.

2.) I want you to watch a movie (it is PG). Because it is PG, please ask your parents permission, and have them look into the film and decide if you can watch it. I haven’t seen it in a long time, but I don’t remember anything utterly offensive. I own a VHS copy of it–vintage!

This book, if you were to read it, would be total bubble bath literature. You should always read The House of Mirth in a bathtub, because you need to feel pampered and at leisure so you can relate to the zeitgeist of it all. Click on the link for zeitgeist and learn a new word. So as you watch it, do something elegant–brush your teeth, clean your room, put on cologne or lip gloss, and eat some fancy chocolate.

Edith Wharton is actually a naturalist writer and this piece of literature belongs in the “Gilded Age” unit that you haven’t gotten to yet in history class. You are going to see the harsh realities of the upper class social circles, especially for a single woman.

This movie is not an endorsement of cigarettes. They didn’t know it was bad for your health back then. It was like chewing gum. He is essentially handing her a stick of chewing gum, with love.

There is a part in this movie where he holds her hand, and it is so sweet. It is more romantic than the “sloppy yet effective” kissing we saw in Romeo and Juliet last year.

In case you can’t follow the subtleties of the movie plot, here is a summary:

The novel tells the story of Lily Bart, an unmarried woman in New York society. The book begins with Lily’s visit to Lawrence Selden’s apartment, a man whom she has feelings for, but to keep her social standing, Lily must marry a wealthier man than Selden. She turns towards Percy Gryce, a young and timid millionaire. When everyone is convinced that Percy will propose to Lily on the next occasion, she suddenly changes her mind and steps back. This is clearly caused by an unexpected visit by Lawrence Selden, who is now convinced of his love for her, but does not want to risk marriage. Gryce soon marries another girl from the same circle.

Lily’s social standing erodes when her friend Judy Trenor’s husband Gus gives Lily a large sum of money. Lily innocently accepts the money, believing that it is the return on investments he supposedly made for her. The rumors of this transaction, and of her mysterious visit to Gus in his city residence, crack her social standing further. One day Lily receives a note from Selden. She is sure he is going to propose and accepts the meeting the next day. Selden, frightened by this sudden change of her heart (earlier she virtually escaped when he tried to kiss her), flees to Havana, and then Europe, leaving no notice.

To escape the rumors and gossip caused by her deal with Trenor, and also disappointed with Selden, Lily accepts an invitation from Bertha Dorset to join her and her husband, George, on a cruise of Europe aboard their yacht the Sabrina. Unfortunately, while aboard the yacht, Bertha accuses Lily of adultery with George in order to shift societal attention from Bertha’s own infidelity with poet Ned Silverton. The ensuing scandal ruins Lily, leading her friends to abandon her and her Aunt Peniston to disinherit her.

Lily tries to fight her way back to the high society, befriending Mr and Mrs Gormer, but Bertha Dorset gradually introduces them to Lily’s ‘scandals’ and undermines her new position. Now Lily is left with but two of her friends: Gerty Farish (Selden’s cousin) and Carry Fisher, who both are trying to help her cope with her changing situation. Their constant advice is that Lily marry, and quickly.

Lily descends the social strata, working as a personal secretary for a disreputable woman, Mrs. Hatch, but resigns after Lawrence Selden comes to rescue her from complete infamy. She then works in a milliner’s, but produces poorly and is let go at the end of the season. Simon Rosedale, the Jewish suitor who had proposed marriage to her when she was higher on the social scale, tries to rescue her, but she is unwilling to meet his terms: he wants her to use love letters she accidentally bought from her servant which prove the affair Bertha Dorset and Selden had years earlier. Lily refrains for the sake of Selden’s reputation, and secretly burns the letters when she visits Selden one last time. Eventually, Lily receives her $10,000 inheritance, which she uses to pay her debt to Trenor. Lily dies from an overdose, possibly accidental, of the sleeping draught to which she had become addicted. Hours later Selden comes to propose to her, but finds she has died. Only then is he able to be close to her in a way he never was able to when she was living and admit his true love for her. (wiki)

After watching the movie, go back over your notes on naturalism and see what characteristics this book has. Write your thoughts in the comment section below 🙂

“We resist the great temptations, but it is the little ones that eventually pull us down.”

“I have tried. I have tried hard–but life is difficult and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine I called life, and when I dropped out of it I found that I was of no use anywhere else. What can one do when one finds that one can fit into only one hole? One must get back to it or get thrown out into the rubbish heap–and you don’t know what it’s like in the rubbish heap!” (Wharton 498)

Also, why do you think that Edith Wharton chose to name the book The House of Mirth?

The Bible says, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Ecclesiastes 7:4. 

What does that verse have to do with this movie? What is her point?

No journals and no grammar until next semester 🙂


15 thoughts on “Week 17–End of Semester Timelines and Edith Wharton

  1. Hooray!
    I am so excited to see what we have in store! You know who this is lol I’ve changed my name like 3 billion times… I wont change it again, I swear! ❤ Haha. Anywho, I hate to bother you, but do be sure to remove The Autumn Robin from your list of sites and change it to Artly Darling 😀 I just don't want you stumbling across the old, shut down thing and be surprised that everything has vanished and your left without a clue or a trace where I went. I moved to the Artly Darling! Haha. Just call me Darling on here! We love you!

    Miss Darling Sweet Artly

  2. Brush teeth, check. Eat fancy chocolates, check. But is that how the movie ends? We just see him walk into a room and then it cuts to black? Why does american literature so often leave us hanging, to inevitably decide on our own what we just read and its meaning? *sigh* Anyways, the bible verse and its relation to the movie. I think the author is trying to point out that our characters are being foolish, wrapped up in things instead of considering people and life itself. Lilly felt as if no one would help her because everyone was too worried about how it would effect their social standing if they did. Edith Wharton wants us to see that to take the moral high ground is considerably better than to only be concerned for our own happiness and our possessions.

  3. The only Biblical relation I could dig up was Job 20:4-5 “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth [amusement] of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.” [brackets mine]. This is ever so true because the godless, Ms. Lily, had joy and riches for a moment. This was, indeed, a naturalist movie due to pessimism, survival of the fittest [survival of the wealthiest], determinism [Ms. Lily had ‘no choice’. Her debts were impossible to pay and get back to her high rank in society.] and a surprising twist at the end. It astonishes me that even though Ms. Lily received the money to pay her debts and the one that she loved loved her back, she committed suicide! It is such a dreary, sad world we live in. All we can do is continue to pray.

  4. Why do I think that Edith Wharton chose to name the book The House of Mirth? “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:4) I looked up the word mirth because I didn’t know what it meant. Basically it means hilarity, merriment, jollity, and jovialit. I didn’t know that! I thought it was some sort of fragrance, like myrrh! LOL Well anyways now that I know what it means I can try to explain it with a better understanding. Okay so, “the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” The characters in the movie lived a good life overall. They were rich and very high class. But they were fools. Even though they lived a good life their hearts where hearts of fools. “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning” Lilly had a not so good life, disgraced and not rich. But she had the heart of a wise man. I think the author is trying to say that where you are in life, rich or poor, your heart is what determines who you are. Not how rich or poor you are, and not who you know, but what’s inside. Hope that makes sense… If it’s totally wrong, I’m sorry. 😦

    1. My sincerest apologies, but I disagree. Lily was, indeed, anything but a wise woman. Job 20:4-5 “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth [amusement] of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.” [brackets mine]. Her ignorance caused her pain and her mirth was only a moment.

  5. Well, Lily was very foolish. When she became in debt, she went to Gus Trenor for help. After he helped her he expected something in return which she wouldn’t give to him, he asked her for the money back, which meant she was in debt to him as well. She was very unwise with money and how she used it. Her also being the main character, that could be why Wharton named the novel The House of Mirth. On a unrelated topic, I told my mom about the movie we were watching and she was excited because she likes the movies within the Gilded age. So we watched Sense & Sensibility 🙂 I believe I am now hooked on movies like these ❤

    1. That is awesome. I love Sense and Sensibility. Have you seen Mansfield Park? That one is good too. The book is of course better. But it has a sweet main character just like Jane Eyre 🙂

  6. “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Ecclesiastes 7:4. Obviously, we can all tell that Lilly is the only one that stands out of the group, the reason why is because of the shortage of money, which cam from the mistakes she made. She didn’t think these mistakes were horrible, life changing mistakes. I still can’t really tell if Lilly (I guess I should say) is a good guy or a bad guy, because throughout the movie, she seems like the bad guy, trying to settle a debt. But, when I look at the verse, I think of all the people that cried in that movie. I only remember two people that cried; Lilly, and Grace. Since Lilly is the main character, I will focus on her. It seems like while Lilly is mourning, and trying so hard to settle her debt, everybody else stands there and (in a sense) laughs, and keeps going along with their day merrily. They don’t help her. Sure a couple people try to help her, but only at a price, an unnecessary price at that.

  7. When I look at the characteristics of naturalism I don’t really see any that match up with the movie. Are you sure we are supposed to look at the characteristics of naturalism Mrs. Brandi?

    1. Yes, numbers 2,3 and 4 on our list of naturalism characteristics are seen in this story. Pessimism, Survival of the Fittest, and Determinism 🙂 I hope that you can kind of see that now. Nothing works out, no matter what she does, and those in power go on living unaffected.

  8. [Nait] I think the House of Mirth would be considered naturalist because of mainly characteristics #1-#4. Lily was foolish with her money, so she was trying to survive. She had no free will because of it. She thought it was over she couldn’t go on; it’s her fate. I expected the ending to be honest, so I didn’t mention characteristic #5 *cough*.

    According to the first search of Google:

    Mirth (noun) – Amusement, especially as expressed in laughter.

    The House of “Mirth”… I don’t get it. Maybe it’s some kind of twisted opposite movie/book title thing…? I guess it’s a kind of laughter.

    “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Ecclesiastes 7:4.

    This verse relates to the movie because of Lily. Again, she wasn’t very wise with money, and she made man mistakes, so I guess it’s like an evil mirth? Or people just don’t help her, kick her in the dust, laughs, and walk away. I believe she’s trying to say that fools who expect stuff will be in the house of mirth, laughed upon, but if you’re wise, you’ll live in the house of mourning, like the verse says.

  9. From 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.” Lily was a fool to throw her money out like how she did and ended up in a huge debt she couldn’t pay for, which is why it is The House of Mirth (fool). She was also a fool for not asking for help as she thought it would ruin her social standing. Also, I did not enjoy this movie. To me, it just dragged through the whole way which made me become really bored of this movie and making me wish it would just end already. This movie does teach a good lesson and it may even help people make their choices wisely, but it was just too boring for me, sorry.

    1. LOL, I can totally see you being bored Matthew. 🙂 I apologize. Thank you for watching it, and thinking about it. We are going to read another book soon that is set in this time period. It is MUCH more enjoyable and exciting, but now at least you have some images in your mind of how the people dressed and how everything looked during this time period.

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