The House of Mirth

by

Edith Wharton

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Bertha Dorset Character Analysis

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 of morals also comes to light through her various adulterous relationships, which demonstrate a complete lack of regard for her husband, George Dorset, whom she manipulates at will. However, Bertha’s utter lack of feeling or morality does not keep her from becoming one of the most powerful members of society, as her impressive wealth is sufficient to make everyone want to be on her side.

Bertha Dorset Quotes in The House of Mirth

The The House of Mirth quotes below are all either spoken by Bertha Dorset or refer to Bertha Dorset. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Money and Happiness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover edition of The House of Mirth published in 2002.
Book 2: Chapter 4 Quotes

“The whole truth?” Miss Bart laughed. “What is truth? Where a woman is concerned, it's the story that’s easiest to believe. In this case it’s a great deal easier to believe Bertha Dorset’s story than mine, because she has a big house and an opera box, and it’s convenient to be on good terms with her.”

Related Characters: Lily Bart (speaker), Bertha Dorset, Gerty Farish, Julia Peniston
Related Symbols: Bertha’s Letters
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2: Chapter 8 Quotes

Society did not turn away from her, it simply drifted by, preoccupied and inattentive, letting her feel, to the full measure of her humbled pride, how completely she had been the creature of its favor.

Related Characters: Lily Bart, Bertha Dorset
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2: Chapter 11 Quotes

She lay awake viewing her situation in the crude light which Rosedale’s visit had shed on it. In fending off the offer he was so plainly ready to renew, had she not sacrificed to one of those abstract notions of honor that might be called the conventionalities of the moral life? What debt did she owe to a social order which had condemned and banished her without trial? She had never been heard in her own defense; she was innocent of the charge on which she had been found guilty; and the irregularity of her conviction might seem to justify the use of methods as irregular in recovering her lost rights.

Related Characters: Lily Bart, Bertha Dorset, Simon Rosedale
Related Symbols: Bertha’s Letters
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2: Chapter 12 Quotes

“There is someone I must say goodbye to. Oh, not you—we are sure to see each other again—but the Lily Bart you knew. I have kept her with me all this time, but now we are going to part, and I have brought her back to you—I am going to leave her here. When I go out presently she will not go with me. I shall like to think that she has stayed with you—and she’ll be no trouble, she’ll take up no room.”

Related Characters: Lily Bart (speaker), Lawrence Selden, Bertha Dorset
Related Symbols: Bertha’s Letters
Page Number: 251
Explanation and Analysis:
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Bertha Dorset Character Timeline in The House of Mirth

The timeline below shows where the character Bertha Dorset appears in The House of Mirth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1: Chapter 2
Morality vs. Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Freedom Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Mr. Gryce then suddenly looks distraught when a common acquaintance enters the carriage. Bertha Dorset then walks in, interrupting the conversation and imposing herself on Lily and Mr. Gryce... (full context)
Book 1: Chapter 3
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...Trenors’ house (instead of a sense of inequality, which she sometimes experiences). She then sees Bertha Dorset talking intimately with Percy Gryce. Although Lily knows that Mr. Gryce, whose boring stories... (full context)
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...lost three hundred dollars at bridge, whereas women who do not need it, such as Bertha Dorset and Judy Trenor, left the bridge table with hundreds of dollars. Lily finds this... (full context)
Book 1: Chapter 4
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...her that the Bellomont parties are always entertaining. However, Mrs. Trenor remains gloomy, explaining that Bertha Dorset is angry at her because Lawrence Selden, with whom Bertha once had an affair,... (full context)
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...purpose for Lily. Judy tells Lily that she is infinitely more attractive and intelligent than Bertha, but that, unlike Lily, Bertha is mean, which is more likely to benefit her in... (full context)
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...he comes, Lily blushes and says that, if Judy would be doing so to keep Bertha from seducing Percy Gryce, she shouldn’t worry. Judy then exults at the idea that Lily... (full context)
Book 1: Chapter 5
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...and resolves to figure out if he has come to Bellomont for her or for Bertha Dorset. She wonders why she likes him so much, and admits that she has always... (full context)
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...before, George Dorset, who was seated next to Lily, remarked to her that his wife, Bertha, who was seated next to Lawrence Selden, was ridiculing herself by trying so hard to... (full context)
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...around in the large house, she reaches the library, where she sees Lawrence Selden and Bertha Dorset in intimate conversation. Pretending that she had not realized she was late for church,... (full context)
Book 1: Chapter 7
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...Lily for letting herself be seen coming back from her walk with Selden. This caused Bertha Dorset to become extremely jealous and to tell Percy Gryce that Lily is not the... (full context)
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At lunch that day, Bertha Dorset takes pleasure in making reference to Gryce’s departure, while Lily feels pained to think... (full context)
Book 1: Chapter 9
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...author of these letters and would want to keep them safe and private, Lily recognizes Bertha Dorset’s handwriting. Although Lily realizes that these letters could be a powerful weapon against Bertha,... (full context)
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In her room, Lily plans to burn Bertha Dorset’s letters. However, after Mrs. Peniston’s mention of the reasons that made Percy Gryce flee... (full context)
Book 1: Chapter 10
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...who felt that Lily had been particularly kind to him at Bellomont, tells her that Bertha is inviting her for dinner on Sunday, which makes Lily wonder if Bertha and she... (full context)
Book 1: Chapter 12
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...if they are potential mistakes. Despite her financial worries, Lily feels that her relationship with Bertha has softened, and that the two have renewed their friendliness. Although she knows that rumors... (full context)
Book 1: Chapter 15
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...left the country at all, but she opens the letter to see an invitation from Bertha Dorset to join her group on a cruise to the Mediterranean. (full context)
Book 2: Chapter 1
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...the group sees a boat in the harbor, they believe it to be George and Bertha Dorset’s cruiser, the Sabrina, where Ned Silverton and Lily are as well. They describe the... (full context)
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...for the very objectives she is trying to reach. Carry also mentions that everyone knows Bertha has brought Lily on this trip so that Lily can distract George while Bertha and... (full context)
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...rather not see Lily if he could avoid it. In the train, though, George and Bertha Dorset, Ned Silverton, Lord Hubert Dacey, and Lily all enter his compartment, having decided to... (full context)
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...an acquaintance, Selden appreciates the beauty of the moonlight views of the water, but sees Mrs. Dorset and Ned Silverton enter a cab on their own. He then runs into Lord Hubert... (full context)
Book 2: Chapter 2
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...next morning, Lily is surprised to find herself alone on the Sabrina. After learning that Bertha Dorset has not yet left her room and that George Dorset and Ned Silverton left... (full context)
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...skills. Lily has breakfast plans with the Duchess at eleven and, after failing to see Bertha Dorset, who claims to be tired, Lily leaves the ship. When she enters the Casino,... (full context)
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...notices Carry’s grave expression and explains that they did have to come back alone because Bertha never showed up to meet them at the station. Carry seems worried at this new... (full context)
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...walk, she notices that he is extremely nervous, and George then reveals that, last night, Bertha and Ned Silverton missed all the trains to Monte Carlo and had to drive back.... (full context)
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...reflects on the situation, feeling sorry for Ned Silverton, who is genuinely in love with Bertha, who only cares about herself. (full context)
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As Lily returns to the Sabrina, she expects to find Bertha overwhelmed with emotion, but is shocked to see that the woman is in full control... (full context)
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When the guests leave, Lily tries to have an intimate conversation with Bertha, but Bertha begins by saying that she and Ned waited for Lily and George at... (full context)
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Unable to understand what is happening, Lily feels lost and, as Bertha continues to attack her for not waiting for them at the train station, Lily can... (full context)
Book 2: Chapter 3
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...while, although when George shows up to dinner and remains largely silent, Lily wonders what Bertha’s ulterior motive could be, since Bertha behaves as though she is the one who has... (full context)
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...also feels afraid for her, although the blame in this situation should logically fall on Bertha. Carry Fisher, who is attuned to mysterious, underlying dynamics, suggests that Lily should marry George... (full context)
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...out of trouble if ever anything happens. However, Lily says that she cannot possibly leave Bertha in this situation, and she seems resigned to accepting that there is little she can... (full context)
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George and Bertha Dorset then arrive at dinner together, which suggests that their problems have mysteriously vanished. Over... (full context)
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...their leave from each other, Mr. Bry calls Lily to return to the yacht but Bertha suddenly interposes herself, saying with cruel finality that Lily will not be returning to the... (full context)
Book 2: Chapter 4
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...after her aunt’s sudden death. Although Mrs. Peniston disapproved of Lily’s trip with Gus and Bertha Dorset, refusing to write to the young girl during that period, Lily is relieved to... (full context)
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...is convinced that Mrs. Peniston wrote it after learning of Lily’s separation from George and Bertha Dorset. Lily insistently asks a reluctant Gerty to tell what is being said about her,... (full context)
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...simply tell them the truth about what happened in Europe. Lily, however, cynically replies that Bertha’s version of the story will always matter more than hers, because Bertha has more money... (full context)
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...that she is completely alone, except for Gerty Farish. After her separation from George and Bertha Dorset, Lily spent a few weeks in London, where, supported by the Duchess of Beltshire,... (full context)
Book 2: Chapter 5
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...them, although she knows that this is the effect of her troubles with George and Bertha Dorset. At the Gormers’, what is asked of her is simply to add to the... (full context)
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...dilemma, Carry Fisher suggests that Lily marry either George Dorset, who is having problems with Bertha again and would probably only leave his wife for Lily, or Simon Rosedale, who still... (full context)
Book 2: Chapter 6
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As George explains that Bertha also manipulates him and that he desperately needs a friend, Lily feels pity for him... (full context)
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Back at Sam and Mattie Gormer’s, Lily learns that Bertha Dorset has just visited Mrs. Gormer, and Lily feels that Bertha is once again planning... (full context)
Book 2: Chapter 7
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...more socially connected, but she also tells Lily that she has seen Mattie Gormer and Bertha Dorset together, and both Carry and Lily understand that Bertha’s objective is to exclude Lily... (full context)
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...then startles Lily by asking directly why she does not take her revenge and use Bertha’s letters, which he knows she possesses. As Lily listens on, too astonished to answer, Rosedale... (full context)
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...Rosedale suggests that the best way for Lily to regain her power would be for Bertha to be on her side, which Lily could achieve by using Bertha’s letters against her.... (full context)
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Marrying him, Rosedale argues, would be Lily’s only sustainable protection against Bertha, since, in light of the rumors that already existed about Lily before her separation from... (full context)
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...concludes that Lily’s attitude must be explained by an effort to protect Selden, to whom Bertha addressed her letters. However, Rosedale adds sarcastically that Selden seems to have done nothing to... (full context)
Book 2: Chapter 8
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...Horse Show but feels that Mattie is gradually erasing her from her life because of Bertha’s powerful influence. This only makes Lily more desperate to reintegrate into her formal circle, which... (full context)
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...Ned’s growing debts, as he has begun gambling again now that he, too, has lost Bertha’s favor. During their conversation, Lily shows a strange form of excitement and despair that worries... (full context)
Book 2: Chapter 11
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...knows that all she would have to do for Rosedale to marry her is use Bertha’s letters against her. Throughout her conversation with Rosedale, she is moved by his passionate indignation... (full context)
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That night, Lily reflects on the possibility of using Bertha’s letters to reintegrate into society. She argues to herself that she does not owe high... (full context)
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...and feels painfully lonely. Finally, in the afternoon, she returns home and decides to take Bertha’s letters to her. Feeling unusually calm and composed, despite the momentousness of the situation, Lily... (full context)