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Means of Creating Satiric Effect in House of Mirth
Percy Gryce is 1st depicted as a shy man by the omniscient narrator, who describes him to be ‘dissembling himself behind an unfolded newspaper’. Wharton’s lexical selection of the verb ‘dissembling’ is synonymous to ‘acting’ or ‘pretending’ which is to imply that Gryce is in fact pretending to be reading the newspaper in order to steer clear of speak to with Lily Bart, a fellow passenger and protagonist within the novel. The narrator (Wharton) then continues to remark upon how peculiarly ‘engrossed’ Gryce is in his newspaper which once again invites the reader to question the legitimacy of Gryce’s true motives when ‘reading’ the newspaper. Wharton has done this to lead the reader to an initial conclusion that Gryce is a shy man who does not appreciate the organization of other folks. Wharton has then presented Lily to start to pursue Gryce, a man who is minding his own company. Wharton has mocked the New York high society here as despite Gryce’s best attempts to avoid speaking to a person on the train lily completely ignores this and appears only to his wealth as an indicator that he is eye-catching to her in spite of his glaring character defects. This theme of shallowness is employed typically by Wharton to mock the New York higher society as this is shown to be the characters frequent trait, vanity.
Physically, Gryce is a man with ‘a face searching as though it had been dipped in crimson.’ Crimson is utilized by Wharton to connote the aristocratic/wealthy side to Gryce. (The colours of Elizabethan clothing, including the colour crimson, supplied data about the status of the man or lady wearing them. This was not just dictated by the wealth of the person, it also reflected their social standing.) The crimson colour also demonstrates discomfiture/blushing from Gryce as he is an awkward man and notices the ‘hand gripping the back of his chair’ from Lily Bart. Gryce is additional shown to have ‘the reddish tint in his beard’ ‘deepen’ once more supplying additional implications of his wealth and embarrassment. Wharton has accomplished this for ironic purposes which in turn mocks New York high society.
Gryce is then presented by Wharton as ‘prey’ which makes him the victim of the cruel cold hearted and shallow society that is described all through the novel. This theme of Hunter and Hunted is continued when Wharton shows that ‘Lily had known the species before’. Wharton has accomplished this to mock the society Lily and Gryce are a part of through the use of irony. The irony is that the sophistication the characters believe they are is place into stark contrast to the animals in which they behave like. This animalistic nature of the characters social structure is used throughout the novel by Wharton for the purpose of satire they are ‘brutal’ and ‘self-engrossed’. Gryce epitomises the shallowness of the society not through his personal actions but in fact via the way in which despite his void of character, the women such as Lily Bart gravitate towards him (due to his wealth).
Edith Wharton offers further irony by means of the depiction of Gryce’s character vs reputation. As referred to earlier, physically Gryce is a man who one particular would expect to be confident of himself due to his wealth and ‘as Gryce was a handsome man in a didactic way’. Nevertheless rather Lily Bart is ‘amused that any individual as rich as Mr Percy Gryce need to be shy’. The fact that Lily has assumed that by Gryce getting wealthy he is going to be confident demonstrates that getting wealthy in this society was what defined a particular person as opposed to experiences in life. This insular train of thought Lily has to the observer appears comical due to its naivety which is how Wharton has utilized to additional generate satire out of the society they are a element of. To further this point, Gryce not only is shy but he also can't hold conversation with Lily Bart other than the topic of his Americana collection ‘are you acquiring on with your Americana?’ a question Lily has asked purely to sustain a conversation as opposed to a genuine interest. This consequently continues the presentation of the selfish ambitions of Lily who is utilizing all ‘methods’ just to eventually have a economic obtain while also demonstrating how impoverished Gryce is in other aspects of life other than his wealth.
Lastly, Percy Gryce is quite a lot deemed to be at the bottom of the meals chain in the novel. Wharton has construed him in this manner by likening Gryce to a ‘baffled beetle’, an animal which would have been thought to have been a decrease organism that was prey to several. This is a outcome of Gryce’s wealth and therefore want to be eaten mixed in with the fact he was a shy man and as a result an easy target for predators. Wharton however does not enable the reader to have pity for Gryce, he is in some techniques as undesirable as the other characters. The metaphor that ‘Mr Gryce’s egoism was a thirsty soil’ is employed by Wharton to describe how a conversation can be maintained with Gryce. The metaphor in context implies that Mr Gryce is (like the other characters) self-engrossed in himself nonetheless he demands continual indulgence in subjects that interest him and continual approval ‘germinating beneath the surface of smiling attention’ in order to release the hidden egoism that is within Percy Gryce. Wharton has added this detail about Percy Gryce to once more mock the shallowness of New York high society for satirical purpose.
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