The House of Mirth


Edith Wharton

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The House of Mirth Characters

Lily Bart

The twenty-nine-year-old protagonist, Lily distinguishes herself from all other members of New York’s high society through her grace, intelligence, and, ultimately, moral righteousness. Although Lily is desperate to reach a stable position of wealth and… read analysis of Lily Bart

Lawrence Selden

A young man who comes from an impoverished yet respectable family, Lawrence Selden impresses Lily Bart with his capacity to take part in some aspects of high society while keeping from becoming a prisoner to… read analysis of Lawrence Selden

Carry Fisher

A twice-divorced woman who is adept at making the men around her give her money, Carry Fisher is in charge of organizing other people’s parties and integrating them in high society, which she does for… read analysis of Carry Fisher

Bertha Dorset

A woman universally known for her manipulation and cruelty, Bertha Dorset feels threatened by Lily Bart and experiences no remorse at taking revenge on her, ultimately condemning her to poverty and social exclusion. Bertha’s lack… read analysis of Bertha Dorset

George Dorset

Bertha Dorset’s husband George is weak and easy to manipulate. Although he shows sincere affection and interest in Lily Bart, he ultimately proves extremely cowardly, failing to defend Lily from his wife’s lies… read analysis of George Dorset
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Simon Rosedale

A rich man who experiences extraordinary success on the stock market, Simon Rosedale is initially rejected by the high society he wants to integrate into. However, his financial savvy and his fierce determination to succeed… read analysis of Simon Rosedale

Judy Trenor

Characterized by a sincere enjoyment of her duties as a hostess and a concern for people to enjoy themselves at her parties, Judy Trenor initially appears to be one of Lily Bart’s most reliable… read analysis of Judy Trenor

Gus Trenor

An unsophisticated, physically repulsive man, and Judy Trenor’s husband. Gus falls in love with Lily Bart after agreeing to help her invest her money on the stock market. Despite his traditional social upbringing, Gus… read analysis of Gus Trenor

Gerty Farish

Lawrence Selden’s cousin Gerty Farish is Lily Bart’s most devoted friend. Living in a working-class apartment on her own, Gerty demonstrates both a strong capacity for independence and a rejection of materialistic values… read analysis of Gerty Farish

Mrs. Bart

Lily Bart’s mother dies when Lily is in her early twenties. Mrs. Bart has a strong influence on Lily’s attitude toward life, as she convinces her daughter that she will succeed in becoming rich… read analysis of Mrs. Bart

Julia Peniston

Lily Bart’s aunt, Mrs. Peniston is a rich social recluse who abides by conservative values. Although she showed a degree of compassion in taking Lily in after Mrs. Bart’s death, she is not… read analysis of Julia Peniston

Jack Stepney

Lily Bart’s cousin, Jack Stepney proves a shrewd social observer and just as capable of social calculation as Lily when he foresees that Simon Rosedale will become an important member of high society. When… read analysis of Jack Stepney

Percy Gryce

An extremely rich man of conservative, puritan values, Percy Gryce is universally known to be boring. Although he is initially fascinated by Lily Bart and considers marrying her, he later demonstrates his utter fear of… read analysis of Percy Gryce

Grace Stepney

Mrs. Peniston’s niece and Lily Bart’s cousin, Miss Grace Stepney proves resentful and unforgiving. After blaming Lily for excluding her from a fancy dinner at Mrs. Peniston’s house, Grace nurtures a lifelong grudge… read analysis of Grace Stepney

Louisa Bry

A rich woman intent on integrating high society, Mrs. Bry depends on Carry Fisher to serve as her social intermediary. Organizing lavish parties to attract public attention, she proves particularly demanding in wanting to join… read analysis of Louisa Bry

Mattie Gormer

Mattie Gormer belongs to a social circle below Wellington and Louisa Bry’s, and initially seems more interested in throwing exciting, relaxed parties than in social climbing, but she ultimately proves just as vulnerable as… read analysis of Mattie Gormer

Mr. Ned Van Alstyne

A member of the long-established, wealthy Van Alstyne family, Lily Bart’s father’s cousin tries to protect Lily’s reputation by telling Lawrence Selden to keep quiet about seeing her with Gus Trenor. At the… read analysis of Mr. Ned Van Alstyne

The Duchess of Beltshire

A member of English aristocracy, the Duchess of Beltshire is known for living a liberal, potentially immoral life of unrestrained pleasure. She appreciates Lily Bart’s presence and personality enormously and integrates the young woman… read analysis of The Duchess of Beltshire

Norma Hatch

A rich divorcée from the West, Mrs. Hatch lives at the Emporium Hotel, where she enjoys a lavish, disorganized life of easy pleasures. Though shunned by formal high society, she entertains many members of society… read analysis of Norma Hatch

Mrs. Haffen (the charwoman)

The cleaning woman at the Benedick, where Lawrence Selden lives, and at Mrs. Peniston’s house. She initially adopts a defiant attitude toward Lily Bart when she sees her leaving the Benedick, seemingly assuming that… read analysis of Mrs. Haffen (the charwoman)
Minor Characters
Wellington Bry
Although Mr. Bry plays a less prominent social role than Mrs. Bry, members of high society such as Carry Fisher and the Duchess of Beltshire consider him funnier and more agreeable than his wife.
Ned Silverton
A young, naïve man who enjoys writing poetry and is addicted to gambling, Ned Silverton falls in love with Carry Fisher and Bertha Dorset, although he fails to understand how calculating these high-society women can be.
Nettie Struther
A woman whom Lily Bart once helped through Gerty Farish’s charity, Nettie Struther impresses Lily with her strength and determination. Having overcome illness and poverty, Nettie now lives a happy live with her family, which proves to Lily that low means and moral worth are far from incompatible.
Lord Hubert Dacey
A gentleman who takes part in the festivities at Monte Carlo, Lord Hubert Dacey seems genuinely interested in Lily Bart’s personality and well-being, as he comments to Lawrence Selden that the Duchess of Beltshire has a bad influence on the young woman.
Gwen Van Osburgh / Mrs. Stepney
Jack Stepney’s wife is a rich but boring member of the wealthy Van Osburgh family. Although she is not described at length, she is characterized by indifference and lack of compassion, as Lily fears that Gwen might refuse to take her in when Bertha kicks Lily off the Sabrina.
Evie Van Osburgh
Leading an equally monotone and wealthy life as Percy Gryce, Evie Van Osburgh ultimately becomes engaged to him. This angers Lily Bart, who feels that she should have been the one to marry Gryce.
Lady Cressida Raith
The Duchess of Beltshire’s sister is a rich, religiously conservative woman whom Judy Trenor fears might ruin her party at Bellomont.
Paul Morpeth
An artist who forms part of Sam and Mattie Gormer’s circle, he admires Lily Bart’s beauty and wants to paint her portrait. He is responsible for designing the tableaux vivants at Wellington and Louisa Bry’s party.
Mr. Dabham
A journalist at Monte Carlo, Mr. Dabham proves ruthless in his desire to spread rumors about the upper class’s relationships. In particular, he spreads the rumor that Lily Bart and George Dorset returned alone from Nice, which gives credibility to Bertha Dorset’s later lies about Lily’s relationship with George.
Freddy Van Osburgh
An innocent, young boy who recently graduated from college, Freddy Van Osburg seems in love with Norma Hatch, and unaware of the scandalous nature of his relationship with her. To keep Freddy from marrying the rich divorcée, members of high society send him away to Europe.
Melville Stancy
Norma Hatch’s lawyer, intent on scheming to make Norma marry Freddy Van Osburgh.
Miss Jane Silverton
Ned Silverton’s sister, who asks Gerty Farish for financial help after Ned ruins the family because of his gambling addiction.
Sam Gormer
Mattie Gormer’s husband.
Mme. Regina
The milliner for whom Lily Bart works. Mme. Regina is initially reluctant to hire Lily, who lacks crucial hat-making skills, but accepts to do so at Carry Fisher’s insistence. However, she later fires Lily because of the young woman’s frequent absences and incompetence.
Miss Haines
Lily Bart’s supervisor at Mme. Regina’s. She demonstrates resentment and cruelty toward Lily by mocking her for not being skilled at making hats.
Miss Kilroy
Lily Bart’s coworker at the milliner’s. She proves kind and compassionate to her, insisting that Miss Haines behaved in a cruel way toward her.