Freedom

Lily Bart is caught up in materialism.

The tragic heroine of The House of Mirth was raised to believe that success is to be measured solely by what one owns; social status; money; “making it.”  It’s a lie of course.

In chapter six, there’s a brief sense of liberation when Selden offers a different view.  Lily had had an inkling of it all along.  Most of us feel the truth that way.  A deep-down-inkling.  His words (or Wharton’s words) are worth reflecting on.  Worth living by actually…

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“My idea of success,” he said, “is personal freedom.” 

“Freedom? Freedom from worries?”

“From everything–from money, from poverty, from ease and anxiety, from all the material accidents. To keep a kind of republic of the spirit–that’s what I call success.”

She leaned forward with a responsive flash. “I know–I know–it’s strange; but that’s just what I’ve been feeling today.”

He met her eyes with the latent sweetness of his. “Is the feeling so rare with you?” he said.

She blushed a little under his gaze. “You think me horribly sordid, don’t you? But perhaps it’s rather that I never had any choice. There was no one, I mean, to tell me about the republic of the spirit.”

“There never is–it’s a country one has to find the way to one’s self.”

“But I should never have found my way there if you hadn’t told me.”

“Ah, there are sign-posts–but one has to know how to read them.”

– From Chapter 6, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

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