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The House of Mirth Study Guide-Online Summary Free BookNotes-Edith Wharton
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS

BOOK 2

CHAPTER 2

Summary

Lily Bart gets up early the next morning to go have lunch with the Duchess. The Duchess has refused to have Bertha Dorset to lunch, telling Lily that she finds all of her friends boring except Mr. Bry, whom she finds funny. Lily has been living with the Dorsets for three months as they have cruised the Mediterranean. She has conveniently laid the problems of New York behind her. It is in Lilyís character to forget moral dilemmas that are not present. If she had had to stay in New York, she would have done anything, even married Simon Rosedale, to pay the debt to Gus Trenor. As it is, she is having a wonderful time forgetting about it and having such a wonderful social success that she is gaining her confidence back about her ability to find some place for herself. She has been low on funds and the Dorsets have not helped her, but she has managed to maintain her living.

When she gets to the restaurant, she runs into Carrie Fisher. Carrie says everything has gone badly with the Brys and that she is leaving to take up another newly rich couple who have yet to break in upon any social scene. She says she is leaving the Brys to Lily. Lily is ready to decline the offer, when Carrie Fisher gives her a clear warning about her situation with the Dorsets. She says the society columnist has been spreading the rumor that the previous night Lily Bart was seen alone with Mr. Dorset after midnight. Lily explains that Mrs. Dorset and Ned Silverton never arrived at the appointed meeting place and she had no choice but go back to the yacht with Mr. Dorset. Carrie Fisher tells her that nevertheless she is in trouble and should escape it by taking up the Brys.


When Lily leaves the Casino she runs into Mr. Dorset. He is in terrible shape and she takes a walk with him in the garden to discuss his problem with him. He tells her his wife didnít get back till seven in the morning. Lily tries to make excuses for Bertha, but he is clearly in sight of the fact that his wife has been unfaithful to him. He tells her he is looking for a lawyer and thinks of Lawrence Selden who has not yet sailed. At first Lily tells him he mustnít go to a lawyer, but then she realizes that Lawrence Selden would be a big help in the situation and so advises him after all to go see Selden.

When she gets back to the yacht, she finds Mrs. Dorset entertaining the Duchess and Lord Hubert. She is surprised at Mrs. Dorsetís mildness in light of what is happening in her marriage. When the Duchess and Lord Hubert leave, she sits with Mrs. Dorset. She decides she must be straight with her and they should talk and plan what steps would best be taken. To her shock, Mrs. Dorset intimates that she is upset that Lily was alone with her husband on the previous night, and that she expected them to wait for her at the train station. Lily realizes that Mrs. Dorset is betraying her again. She sits quietly and lets the betrayal sink in.

Notes

What was alluded to in chapter one, the danger Lily is in, is borne out in chapter two. Lily has been playing a false role, keeping Mr. Dorset busy and flattered while Mrs. Dorset pursued a relationship with Ned Silverton. When Mrs. Dorset slips up and makes her affair obvious, she turns the tables on Lily and accuses Lily of manipulating Mr. Dorset into an affair. The mixed nature of Lilyís character comes out in this scene. Lily is able to exist in the false position. She plays her part well and gets what she needs out of it. Yet, she also has a sort of a moral sense and does not go further than she must to attain security. Therefore, instead of playing on George Dorsetís sense of tragedy so she could win some advantage to herself, she sends him to Lawrence Selden whom she knows will convince Mr. Dorset to stay in the marriage. Instead of recognizing the Bertha Dorset is nothing of an ally and should not be treated as one, Lily naively assumes that she would be called upon to commiserate with Bertha. Instead, she is betrayed.

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