The exemplary sentence

I’ve been rereading Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, my favorite of her books. As it opens, lovely, graceful, and without money of her own, Lily Barth needs to find a husband. She’s already 29, old for the job. But it’s hard for her. She attaches herself to Percy Gryce, a rich, eligible bachelor and draws him out on his favorite books, but he is so boring that just thinking about him later brings his droning voice clearly to mind, and she imagines the work of getting him to propose, summed up in this sentence.

“She had been bored all the afternoon by Percy Gryce–the mere thought seemed to raise an echo of his droning voice–but she could not ignore him on the morrow, she must follow up her success, must submit to more boredom, must be ready with fresh compliances and adaptabilities, and all on the bare chance that he might ultimately decide to do her the honor of boring her for life.”

Funny, but ultimately tragic for Lily, who can never quite bring herself to this wholly mercenary level. A wonderful read to finish up the summer.

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