The House of Mirth | Study Guide

Edith Wharton

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The House of Mirth | Characters

Character Description
Lily Bart Lily Bart is a beautiful, intelligent, and orphaned woman of 29. Highly sensitive to beauty, she is looking for a wealthy husband. Read More
Lawrence Selden Selden is a handsome, intelligent, and aloof lawyer who is conflicted about his relationship to wealthy society and about his relationship to Lily Bart. He enjoys wealthy society but condemns it at the same time; he is in love with Lily but judges her harshly. Read More
Bertha Dorset Bertha Dorset is a wealthy and treacherous socialite. She is unkind and deceitful and does much to make Lily's life miserable. Read More
Percy Gryce Percy Gryce is a wealthy, boring man who buys up Americana. He is interested in marrying Lily Bart at first and then changes his mind. Read More
Simon Rosedale Simon Rosedale is wealthy and Jewish. He is new to New York society; this, and his Jewishness, cause people in Lily Bart's set to look down on him. Read More
Gerty Farish Gerty Farish is Lawrence Selden's cousin and one of Lily Bart's few true friends. Read More
Aunt Julia Peniston Aunt Julia Peniston is Lily's aunt, her father's sister. She belongs firmly to the class of established New Yorkers who have "always lived well, dressed expensively, and done little else." Read More
Ned Van Alstyne Ned Van Alstyne is Lily's cousin. Ned is a rather vulgar person—he can be counted on to make sleazy assumptions—and he is with Selden when they see Lily leaving the Trenor's house.
Mrs. Van Alstyne Mrs. Van Alstyne is Ned's wife, who performs one of the tableaux vivant at the Brys' party.
Miss Molly Van Alstyne Molly is the Van Alstyne's daughter.
Miss Anstell Miss Anstell is an actress. The fact that the Gormers include such a person in their social circle is evidence that they need help from Carry Fisher or Lily Bart if they are to climb the social ladder of respectability.
Mr. Hudson Bart A moving figure, Mr. Bart is weary from constant work and is rarely home to get to know his daughter, Lily. He loses all his money when Lily is 19, and then he dies.
Mrs. Hudson Bart Mrs. Hudson Bart, Lily Bart's mother, is a woman who spends too much money and sees her husband as a money-making machine. After her husband's death and financial ruin she and Lily live with relatives in Europe; Mrs. Bart hopes Lily's beauty will bring wealth back to them, but she dies not long after her husband does, disgusted with life.
Mr. Wellington Bry Wellington Bry is Louisa Bry's second husband, newly wealthy and trying to enter high society. Carry Fisher, who is helping the Brys, wishes Welly Bry could behave as he truly is, because that amuses the Duchess.
Louisa Bry Louisa Bry and her husband throw the party at which Lily Bart dresses up as Mrs. Lloyd in one of the tableaux vivant. Louisa Bry is socially ambitious and later, in Monte Carlo, Lily pleases her by helping the Brys meet the Duchess.
Miss Kate Corby Kate Corby is a witty, single woman at the Trenor's party at Bellomont.
Mr. Dabham Mr. Dabham is a society columnist who writes "Society Notes for the Riviera." He furthers Lily's downfall by writing about the fact that she was seen with George Dorset late at night.
Lord Hubert Dacey Lord Hubert Dacey is an aristocratic European who helps the Americans in Europe meet with the Duchess of Beltshire.
Mr. Dillworth He is a wealthy man whom Lily could have married. Mr. Dillworth's mother did not approve of Lily so she sent him out of the country.
George Dorset George Dorset is Bertha Dorset's put-upon husband. He is dull and weak and ready to marry Lily Bart when he suspects Bertha of having an affair with Ned Silverton, but instead he chooses to stay with Bertha.
Duchess of Beltshire Because she is a duchess, many of the wealthy Americans abroad are eager to meet and befriend this woman. Knowing her would improve the Americans' social standing, in their own eyes at least.
Carry Fisher Carry Fisher is a twice-divorced woman who makes her living helping newcomers enter high society while she lives off their wealth. She is a member of the social elite, so much is forgiven of her, and yet she is a kind woman and a good friend to Lily Bart, with a straightforward understanding of the moral complexities of living among the wealthy of New York.
Mattie Gormer She is Sam Gormer's wife, a woman who very much wants to join the social elite.
Sam Gormer Sam Gormer is wealthy but not yet accepted into New York's high society. Carry Fisher has been helping the Gormers but suggests that Lily help them after she has been disinherited by her aunt.
Mrs. Gryce Mrs. Gryce is Percy Gryce's mother, a wealthy woman who brought her son to New York and hopes he will become part of New York's upper crust.
Jefferson Gryce Jefferson Gryce is Percy Gryce's father, who collected Americana and bequeathed it to Percy upon his death.
Mrs. Haffen Mrs. Haffen is the charwoman who Lily Bart encounters three times in the novel—first at Lawrence Selden's apartment house, the Benedick, then later at Lily's Aunt Peniston's house. Mrs. Haffen comes to Lily's room and sells her love letters written by Bertha Dorset to Lawrence Selden.
Miss Haines Miss Haines is Lily Bart's supervisor while she works decorating hats at Madame Regina's shop.
Mrs. Norma Hatch In Book 2, Lily Bart works as a secretary for wealthy, divorced Mrs. Hatch for a short time, showing her how to enter elite society. Lily stops working for Mrs. Hatch, however, when Selden tells her he thinks she should not be helping her.
Lucius Lucius is another young man living off the wealth of a rich married woman, as Ned Silverton and, once, Lawrence Selden did. Lucius is associated with Alice Wetherall.
Mr. Herbert Melson Mr. Melson is a man with whom Lily was once in love; he married the oldest Van Osburgh daughter before the novel begins.
Paul Morpeth Paul Morpeth is a painter who works for the wealthy people Lily Bart knows.
Evie Van Osburgh Evie Van Osburgh is the youngest of the Van Osburgh daughters. She marries Percy Gryce, and they have a son.
Bertie Van Osburgh Brother of Evie and Gwen, Bertie is friends at Harvard with Ned Silverton, who has taught him how to gamble. People try to keep Bertie from marrying Norma Hatch, who is considered of lesser social status.
Gwen Van Osburgh Gwen Van Osburgh marries Jack Stepney, a cousin of Lily Bart's, in Book 1. It is at their wedding that Lily learns that Percy Gryce will marry Evie Van Osburgh.
Maria Van Osburgh Mrs. Van Osburgh, mother of Gwen, Bertie, Evie, and their unnamed sister, is famous for her big parties; she and Mrs. Trenor are in competition over becoming the best hostess in New York society.
Miss Pragg Miss Pragg is Judy Trenor's secretary. Because she is away when Lily Bart is at Bellomont, Judy Trenor asks Lily to help her with taking care of her papers.
Lady Cressida Raith Lady Raith is a woman whom Judy Trenor describes as having invited to one of her parties so that it would be better than a Van Osburgh party. Lady Raith is boring, though.
Madame Regina Madame (abbreviated as Mme.) Regina owns the hat shop where Lily Bart works until she is fired.
Annie Silverton Annie is Ned Silverton's other sister, who is also trying to help Ned get out of debt and other trouble.
Jane Silverton Jane is Ned Silverton's sister, who is trying to find work to help her brother pay off his debts; she comes to Gerty Farish for advice.
Ned Silverton Ned Silverton is a young poet who becomes Carry Fisher's lover, then Bertha Dorset's lover. When he is tossed aside by Bertha, he sinks ever deeper into gambling and goes into debt.
Lord Skiddaw Lord Skiddaw is one of the husbands who comes to Judy Trenor's party at Bellomont.
Lady Skiddaw Lady Skiddaw is a socialite and the wife of the wealthy Lord Skiddaw.
Mr. Melville Stancy A divorce lawyer, Mr. Stancy knows both Carry Fisher and Mrs. Norma Hatch.
Grace Stepney Grace Stepney is Lily's cousin. Because, out of pride, Lily slights Grace, Grace tells Aunt Julia Peniston gossip and rumors about Lily, which is why Lily is eventually cut from Aunt Julia's will.
Jack Stepney Jack Stepney is Lily Bart's cousin and becomes Gwen Van Osburgh's husband. Early in the novel, he is in debt to Simon Rosedale and helps Rosedale enter New York's elite circles.
Nettie Struther Nettie Struther is a working-class girl whom Lily met through Gerty Farish's charity work. When Lily is very sick, Nettie brings her into her warm kitchen, lets her hold her baby, and gives her tea.
George Struther George is Nettie Struther's husband, a man who loved her and married her even though she had faults. He may be the father of Nettie's baby.
Gus Trenor Gus Trenor is Judy Trenor's husband, a repulsive, inarticulate, not terrifically intelligent, often drinking, wealthy man. Lily manipulates him into investing her money, but does not fully realize that he expects an affair in return.
Miss Hilda Trenor Hilda and Muriel are most likely Judy Trenor's teen daughters; they take the carriage to church with Percy Gryce.
Judy Trenor Judy Trenor is Gus Trenor's wife; she is a good friend of Lily's and frequently houses Lily. She is social and hosts large bridge parties. She virtually disappears in Book 2.
Miss Muriel Trenor Muriel is most likely Judy Trenor's daughter and Hilda's sister; these two go to church with Percy Gryce while Lily talks to Selden instead of attending the Sunday services.
Mrs. Alice Wetherall Mrs. Wetherall is a socialite who travels in the same circles as Judy Trenor. She is most probably having an affair with young Lucius; she is another example of a bored woman in this frivolous society.
Mr. Wetherall Mr. Wetherall is an upper-class husband; he is mostly silent.
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