Sunday, March 13, 2011
Do you feel lucky?
We talked about Lily's excessive gambling in class, and discussed how she gambles away a good deal of her livelihood that could be spent on the lavish lifestyle she wants so badly. She does have a decent amount of money; if she were to save wisely, she could easily provide for herself and be comfortable as a single woman. However, Lily's eyes are on the prize, so to speak, and she instead relies on luck to get to where she wants to be.
This idea of luck is pervasive in House of Mirth. You can see it not only in all the characters' gambling tendencies, but also in the way Lily approaches suitors and marriage. In the novel-- and hinted in her past as well-- Lily turns down certain men under the idea and hope that there's an even better, richer, more socially powerful man on his way. It's this approach towards gambling that has brought Lily here in the first place, to the state of being in her late twenties and without the security of marriage.
I started to wonder how this could be, how Lily could be so flagrant with her disregard of consequences when gambling with her future. She loses big in stocks and loses frequently in bridge-- why can't she learn from these mistakes and apply them to the grander scheme of her life? I wonder if Lily has ever really fallen hard, really felt the consequences of her gambling approach to life. With the suitors, a failure with one certainly wouldn't feel permanent, because there are so many suitors out there and she is just so young and pretty.
What Lily fails to really get a grasp on, I think, is the actual weight of the chips she gambles with. These are her beauty, her youth, and her future. The people she associates with are either young, fun, and single, or old, secure, and married. I feel like Lily believes that one can be only either young/fun/single, or old/secure/married-- never a mix of these two spheres. It doesn't once truly occur to her that she can be old and single, and so she doesn't realize how much weight lies in the chips she holds. Even when they're gone, their "goneness" feels impermanent and fixable.
I guess what I'm getting down to is that I feel like Lily has trouble with absolutes, with final endings and permanent changes. She just doesn't believe that they exist. This is something I've struggled with in my own life as well, an obliviousness to the idea that my actions may have permanent results. I really connect with Lily here; I think we both ignore the idea "foreverness" as a sort of self-preservation tactic. It's a lot easier to take gambles here and there if you're not quite in touch with the reality of losing.