Proposal Title

Lily Bart’s “Process of Crystallization”: Becoming Brier Rose in The House of Mirth

Primary Faculty Mentor’s Name

Chris Bell

Proposal Track

Student

Session Format

Paper Presentation

Abstract

In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton’s heroine Lily Bart resembles Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s version of Sleeping Beauty, “Brier Rose.” In the past, scholars have examined the literary technique “doubling” in regards to Lily’s character, or compared and contrasted her characteristics to the Victorian fallen woman and the New Woman; however, they fleetingly, if at all, probe Lily’s likeness to Sleeping Beauty. Lily’s and Brier Rose’s outer beauty appear as flawless as an artist’s creation, which allures admirers. A handsome prince wakes Brier Rose from her sleeping curse, for her beauty amazes him. Similarly, Lily’s beauty attracts attention from New York City’s elite society, whose members wish to find a suitor for her. While Brier Rose marries the prince, and they live happily ever after, Lily resists marriage. Lily’s fixation on beauty renders her passive. Additionally, her beauty separates her from others and confirms that she belongs to another world without human companions—a world where Lily sleeps forever. Drawing upon Helene Cixous’s explanation of why Sleeping Beauty, or Brier Rose, belongs in bed, I argue that Lily, too, belongs there, but without a man’s company. When Lily overdoses on the drug chloral, she sleeps peacefully, and she sleeps alone. A rare and wondrous piece of art should die and possess immortality, rather than live and marry a prince. In bed, Lily marbleizes Brier Rose’s sleeping posture, and her beauty crystallizes. This paper will argue that Lily’s similarity to Sleeping Beauty dehumanizes her, which offers her an escape from the ugly reality of unwanted marriage proposals and personal flaws that she lacks the ability to confront.

Award Consideration

1

Location

Room 2905

Presentation Year

2014

Start Date

11-15-2014 8:30 AM

End Date

11-15-2014 9:30 AM

Publication Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

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Nov 15th, 8:30 AM Nov 15th, 9:30 AM

Lily Bart’s “Process of Crystallization”: Becoming Brier Rose in The House of Mirth

Room 2905

In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton’s heroine Lily Bart resembles Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s version of Sleeping Beauty, “Brier Rose.” In the past, scholars have examined the literary technique “doubling” in regards to Lily’s character, or compared and contrasted her characteristics to the Victorian fallen woman and the New Woman; however, they fleetingly, if at all, probe Lily’s likeness to Sleeping Beauty. Lily’s and Brier Rose’s outer beauty appear as flawless as an artist’s creation, which allures admirers. A handsome prince wakes Brier Rose from her sleeping curse, for her beauty amazes him. Similarly, Lily’s beauty attracts attention from New York City’s elite society, whose members wish to find a suitor for her. While Brier Rose marries the prince, and they live happily ever after, Lily resists marriage. Lily’s fixation on beauty renders her passive. Additionally, her beauty separates her from others and confirms that she belongs to another world without human companions—a world where Lily sleeps forever. Drawing upon Helene Cixous’s explanation of why Sleeping Beauty, or Brier Rose, belongs in bed, I argue that Lily, too, belongs there, but without a man’s company. When Lily overdoses on the drug chloral, she sleeps peacefully, and she sleeps alone. A rare and wondrous piece of art should die and possess immortality, rather than live and marry a prince. In bed, Lily marbleizes Brier Rose’s sleeping posture, and her beauty crystallizes. This paper will argue that Lily’s similarity to Sleeping Beauty dehumanizes her, which offers her an escape from the ugly reality of unwanted marriage proposals and personal flaws that she lacks the ability to confront.