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The House of Mirth

Edith Wharton

Chapters 10-12

Summary Chapters 10-12

Wharton proclaims near the end of Chapter 12 that "something in time lay dead between [Lily and Selden]." Lily also makes a distinction between her old self and her new self. Wharton never explains what exactly Lily means, nor does she explicitly state what lies between Lily and Selden. One possibility is their old love for one another despite their inability to get married. Another possibility is Lily's old expectations and aspirations, which she thinks are long dead. Selden knew Lily when she was at her best and on her way up in society; now he sees her at her worst ever. Between them, then, lies Lily's old greatness, which has disappeared. Selden is really the only character in the novel who has been with Lily every step of the way, from the first chapter until her death. He has been a casual observer both to society in general and Lily's place in it. At the end of the novel, the old, popular, secure Lily still haunts the minds of both of them, and may be what Wharton means by the "something in time."