The Downside of the Pursuit of Happiness

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:4). This verse provided the title for Edith Wharton’s first successful novel, The House of Mirth, which is the most recent addition to the literature website. Wharton portrays turn-of-the-century upper-class New York society as a house of fools seeking pleasure and caring nothing about whom they might trample underfoot in the process. The central character in the novel, Lily Bart, longs to be part of that society while at the same time recognizing its essential ugliness. Her inability to turn away from these frauds and poseurs ultimately ruins her life; she winds up in the house of mourning, not by choosing a sober approach to life, but as a result of her inability to reject worthless frivolity. The novel provides a clear example of how “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (I Timothy 6:10).