Lily Bart, Insomniac

Almost to the end of The House of Mirth.  What a novel it has turned out to be!  If only Wharton’s writing hadn’t been so florid.  In certain passages, the sentences are as full of cornucopia as a baroque cathedral.

Still, self loves the characters.  And Lily Bart’s gradual degradation is very moving.

Towards the end, Lily’s love for Selden has such clarity.  It is the only clear thing in a life filled with confusing messages and rationalizations.

That a beautiful woman should be forced to earn her own keep is a travesty (or, it was in Wharton’s time.  No, perhaps in an earlier generation’s time as well.  Self remembers Dearest Mum saying, more than once, that self’s grandmother didn’t think Dearest Mum’s younger sister needed to go to college because she was so beautiful, she was sure to marry well.  That it turned out all tragically wrong for self’s aunt is further proof that Wharton’s steely unsentimentality about a woman’s place in society is still resonant today).

Here is poor Lily Bart, forced to make a living by working at a hat-making factory:

She began to rip the spangles from the frame, listening absently to the buzz of talk which rose and fell with the coming and going of Miss Haines’ active figure.  The air was closer than usual, because Miss Haines, who had a cold, had not allowed a window to be opened even during the noon recess; and Lily’s head was so heavy with the weight of a sleepless night that the chatter of her companions had the incoherence of a dream.

Self, searching around for a suitable image to illustrate Ms. Bart’s deepening insomnia, found this photograph of window shades:

Window Shades, Bacolod, One Afternoon in July

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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