The House of Mirth | Study Guide

Edith Wharton

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The House of Mirth | Book 2, Chapter 6 | Summary



At the Gormers, walking nearby, Lily Bart meets George Dorset. She does not want to be reminded of her experiences with him; he tries to apologize. She says she cannot help him, and that Bertha made use of her to save her marriage to George. George wants to leave Bertha, but he needs someone to help him prove she had an affair. Lily realizes she could help him with the letters she has, and leaves him quickly. When she comes back to the Gormers' house, she learns that Bertha Dorset has been there. She realizes she will not be able to be friends with the Gormers once they befriend Bertha. George comes back and begs her to help him, but she again refuses.


Lily Bart really balks at using the letters she has against Bertha. This is at least in part from loyalty to Selden, but it is also because Lily dislikes the idea of anything like blackmail. It is another example of Lily not acceding to the mercenary values of the society she moves in.

The two triangles Lily becomes involved in are remarkably similar: the Judy-Gus Trenor-Lily triangle and the Bertha-George Dorset-Lily triangle. This is another example of the difficulties of being a single woman in this society.

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