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House Of Mirth

            "Everything about her was at once was at once vigorous and exquisite, at once strong and fine. He had a confused sense that she must have cost a great deal to make, that a great many dull and ugly people must, in some mysterious way, have been sacrificed to produce her. He was aware that the qualities distinguishing her from the herd of her sex were chiefly external, as though a fine glaze of beauty and fastidiousness had been applied to vulgar clay." -(p 3.) Readers are offered these early impressions of Lily Bart from the mind of Lawrence Selden as they walk toward his flat on Madison Avenue. I think that this quote is interesting for a few reasons: by saying "she must have cost a great deal to make," Lily is immediately seen as a commodity: if workers were "sacrificed" to make this "produce," her person is not only objectified, but quantified as a value in a transaction. Selden's inner commentary pre-empts this thought as a "confused sense": I take this as the kind of feeling that Selden must feel corrupt, to some degree, for thinking, as this perception that he has of women is somewhat culturally programmed. We also see the way that Selden views her "fine glaze" of beauty, which marks her as differing from the rest of the cattle-like women. I think it is interesting to consider that some of the first outside opinions we perceive of Lily attempt quantify her value: it is these monetary values that will trouble the rest of her days. Unlike the high Boston Society of Silas Lapham, the means in which one attains wealth is not of importance: the freedom that Lily seeks may be only available through financial stability, and the only financial gains in which Lily is successful come through the ideals of courtship and marriage which have been forced upon her.

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