Paper2 - Brooke Galietto April 1, 2011 English 232 Edwards...

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Brooke Galietto April 1, 2011 English 232 – Edwards Paper #2 (Prompt #2) “The Unexpected Consequences of Lily Bart’s Social Descent” Lily Bart’s social descent gives her the opportunity to see life through extremely different perspectives. Lily gains new insight into life’s purpose forcing her to redefine money, relationships, and independence. The further Lily falls in regard to social standings, the deeper the understanding of money and independence she gains. Throughout Book I, Wharton presents Lily’s skewed definition of money’s purpose. However, in Book II, Lily experiences the conflict between the luxurious feelings of freedom, the terrors of poverty, and the limitations of all women. Seeing society from a different viewpoint allows Lily to discover many differences among the different social classes. This insight generates several major changes in Lily. However, witnessing other perspectives also makes Lily realize certain concrete similarities among the different social strata. Lily believes that money and appearances will get her married; “a woman is asked out as much for her clothes as for herself” (12). Clothes and jewelry are a major point of contention in regard to Lily’s accumulating debt. Lily prioritizes her need for fashion and beauty over her need for financial stability. Wharton presents a certain irony in the fact that Lily believes keeping up her appearances warrant her a wealthy suitor. However, her big clothing and jewelry bills ultimately plummet her to the bottom of society where she becomes unmarriageable. So exactly what Lily believed would get her married, clothes and money, ruined Lily’s chances of marriage. 1
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Lily believes that money’s value lies in its ability to grant membership into high society. Lily is blind to the purchasing power of money. Instead, she views it as a ticket allowing her entry and acceptance into society’s top echelon. Lily’s inaccurate beliefs are a result of what her mother and peers have taught her. Lily grows accustomed to social standards such as “everybody with money can get into society” (147); and that “social credit was based on an impregnable bank account”(204). These examples show the unbreakable bond Lily and her society believe exists between money and high society
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Paper2 - Brooke Galietto April 1, 2011 English 232 Edwards...

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