Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lily Bart killed herself! According to a Charles McGrath story in today's New York Times, a letter written by Edith Wharton to Dr. Francis Kinnicutt, "a well-known society doctor who specialized in the mental ailments of the well-to-do," supposedly reveals that Wharton planned on doing away with the heroine of her second and best novel The House of Mirth after all. The coldness with which she contemplates dispatching Lily sounds just like classic Wharton ("I have a heroine to get rid of, and want some points on the best way of disposing of her”); but even if it weren't, I don't see why we would give the writer final word anyway. In literature, intentions rarely produce results. Besides, the ending is clear to me. As Roxanna Robinson points out: "If [Lily] doesn’t take action here, if her death occurs by chance (or if Anna Karenina had fallen under the wheels by mistake), the tragedy is drained of much of its power.”

I reviewed the audiobook here.

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