Term of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Literature and Philosophy

Committee Chair

Caren J. Town

Committee Member 1

David Dudley

Committee Member 2

Gautam Kundu


In this thesis, I will compare the role of Mentorship in the lives of protagonists Lily Bart of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, and Carrie Meeber of Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. Both Lily and Carrie experience life altering events that force them into unfamiliar roles amidst the upper-class New York Society of the early 19th Century. Each woman’s circumstances foster a growing level of independence, and each is compelled to examine the potential of her own skill set. The challenges they face include financial struggles, difficulty in establishing and or maintaining their desired status in society, as well as a reluctance to place their futures in the hands of other’s. Their efforts produce contrary outcomes; however, each suffers the consequences of life’s lessons along the way. Although evidence throughout the stories focuses on the individual progress of each woman’s experiences, it is imperative to note the significant role of Mentorship in these woman’s lives. To most, the presence of Mentorship is vital in obtaining success in life. To these women, the value of this kind of guidance is immeasurable. With the influence of mentors Carrie is able to Adapt to the changing circumstances around her, therefore ascending to the higher levels of society with little difficulty. Her abilities grow stronger and she is able to accomplish great success. Despite the guidance of surrounding Mentors, Lily, who already exists within the higher tier of society, is incapable of acclimating herself to her situation’s changing dynamics. Ultimately, her Mentors fail and her inabilities continue to affect her position toward an inevitable downfall. The presence of Mentorship in each woman’s life initiates the question of whether or not the relationships are capable of influencing Lily and Carrie’s Abilities so that they are able to surpass individual limitations. This thesis explores the most influential relationships in Lily and Carrie’s lives, establishing Mentorship, or even the lack thereof, as the greatest contributing factor in each woman’s Successes or Failures.

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