In Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, the main character, Lily Bart, starts off with two goals: to marry well and acquire wealth. Lily is constantly worried about money. Ever since she was a small child and her mother complained of "dinginess-, Lily has wanted to be financially stable. She goes through life looking for a husband that can assure her a place in the leisure class, even though the shallow life is not the one that Lily appears to want. Instead, she continues to sabotage her chances for marrying a man who is wealthy. Indeed, riches are not the only thing that she is concerned about. Deep down, she wants a man who she can be happy with, a man, wealthy or not, with whom she can spend her life, raise a family, and put down roots with.
As Lily was growing up, her mother continually talked about money as the ultimate goal in life. The elder Mrs. Bart felt that in order to live well one had to have money. Lily's mother did not want her daughter growing up in a world full of dinginess. So, Lily always wore the finest dresses, even if the family could not afford them. Lily "had been brought up in the faith that whatever it cost, one must have a good cook and be what Mrs. Bart called decently dressed.-(page30) Lily did not form the idea to marry into wealth on her own; this notion was put in her head by her mother. Lily always wanted to please her mother, and she may have thought that the right thing to do was to marry well, but inevitably the farce became too much for her. She could not force herself to marry someone purely for the money because it would not have made her happy.
In the beginning Lily was raised by her parents, but after they died she was brought up by her aunt Ms. Peniston. Lily had no other family that she was close to. Lily was constantly being moved around and never had a chance to settle in one place long enough to consider it her home. Lily "was like a water-plant in the flux of the tides.