Many American naturalist authors represent women focused not on nurturing and reproduction but rather on their own subsistence, willing to do anything to ensure their own survival. Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth offers an interesting counterpoint to the naturalist plot of decline, wherein men often starve to death. Within the critical field, there remains to consider not just Lily's immobility (or lack of social place), but what foodways can reveal to us about the downward trajectory of the plot of decline within the novel. Building on explorations of conspicuous consumption in The House of Mirth, this article suggests that the food and dining customs in the novel do in fact highlight female social conscription but also stand out against the home-centered exchange of sustenance. Reading the scenes of dining in the novel reveals the contrast between the imitative conspicuous consumption of society banquets and scenes of domestic dining in tranquil spaces. Examining Wharton's depiction of foodways more sharply and accurately reveals her views on consumer culture and the deterioration of the domestic home, along with women's changing role in American culture at the time.

You do not currently have access to this content.