The House of Mirth

by: Edith Wharton

Motifs

Gambling and Luck

Gambling and luck appear throughout The House of Mirth. Lily gambles at the socialite parties and loses her spending money. She gambles again on the stock market with the help of Gus Trenor. Throughout the novel, she gambles with love, continually staying in the game instead of taking various suitors’ marriage proposals, always believing she can win a bigger and better “hand.” Unfortunately, Lily’s luck takes a definite turn for the worse. She loses her large sum in the stock market, then inadvertently makes an enemy of Bertha Dorset, who spreads rumors that hurt Lily even more. Even Lily’s death can be seen as unlucky—Wharton doesn’t make clear whether Lily intends to overdose on sleeping medication or whether her decision to take a little extra really is because she wants to sleep longer. Regardless, the reader is left with a sense that Lily’s whole life could have been changed drastically were she to have had a little better luck.