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The novel opens with one of many small lapses in...Often spurned at the last minute for Harvard Business School (HBS), the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and, at times, Columbia Business School, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, possibly more than any other top MBA program, really wants to know that you want to earn your degree .
Perhaps the strongest bond between these two writers lies in their mutual devotion to the art of fiction, their continual study of the novel’s form, and their interest in the technique and processes of art.
As a realist, Wharton describes the houses, fashion, and social rituals of “old New York” in minute detail, studying this small stratum of society as an anthropologist might study a South Sea island. everything concerning the manners and customs of his little tribe had seemed to him fraught with world-wide significance.” He describes his own wedding as “a rite that seemed to belong to the dawn of history.” Archer’s use of this anthropological jargon reveals Wharton’s almost scientific fascination with the social milieu.
Often victims of society’s narrow definition of acceptable behavior, Wharton’s multifaceted, psychologically complex characters are also victimized by their own weaknesses.
Lily Bart, one of Wharton’s most fully realized characters, suffers under the limitations placed on women in her circumstances, but she falls equally victim to her own selfishness and snobbery.
The principal theme of Wharton’s fiction involves the individual in society: how personal relationships are distorted by societal conventions, the clash between changing characters and fixed society, and the conflict between nature and culture.
Wharton therefore stands a bridge between an older, more established nineteenth century world and the world of the twentieth century, which placed increasing emphasis on individual experience.They traveled in the same social circles, wrote about similar kinds of people, held the same values, and dealt with many of the same themes, particularly innocence versus experience.James, however, placed more emphasis upon the individual within the society than on the society itself.Hardly lacking for opportunities to marry well, Lily nevertheless manages to sabotage her best chances, as she does in bungling her courtship with Percy Gryce, an eminently eligible but overwhelmingly boring pillar of the community.Lily’s unique place in New York society—simultaneously insider and outsider—makes her one of Wharton’s most fascinating creations and offers the reader a privileged perspective on this world. [who] must have cost a great deal to make,” Lily is also “so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate.” Lily’s need to be surrounded by the beautiful things that only immense sums of money can buy and her distaste for the common and ugly enslave her to those she might otherwise find at best ridiculous and at worst repellent; they cause her to reject the only person for whom she feels genuine emotion, Lawrence Selden, a cultivated lawyer of modest means.Newland Archer often muses on the peculiar demands and expectations placed on women.When he declares, “Women ought to be free—as free as we are,” Wharton notes that he is “making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure the terrific consequences.” May Welland Archer is yet another victim—in this case, of her husband’s narrow definition of her character—and Ellen Olenska is the victim of society’s preconceptions of a woman’s behavior.A product of her society, “at once vigorous and exquisite, at once strong and fine . As Lily can neither totally accept her society’s values nor be hypocritical enough to survive without doing so, she finally must perish.Lily’s fall from social grace is incremental rather than precipitous, occurring gradually as she makes small compromises in order to survive.Her parents having left her no legacy but an appreciation for the finer things in life, Lily occupies a precarious social position under the protection of her dreary, socially prominent Aunt Peniston, and she must rely on the favors of the wealthy ladies and gentlemen who find her company amusing.Lily’s craving for the secure foothold that only marriage can provide cannot entirely overcome her distaste for the hypocrisy and insensitivity of her class.