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《欢乐之家》中莉莉·芭特炫耀式消费心理探究

发布时间:2019-05-24
  摘 要
  
  《欢乐之家》是伊迪丝·华顿的成名作,该小说反映了男权制度下女性生活的悲剧。这种悲剧跟美国处于转型期的消费膨胀心理有关。本论文从消费心理角度,借助凡勃伦的消费理论,对《欢乐之家》主人公莉莉·芭特的消费心理特征进行分析与探讨,指出消费对当时美国社会的影响。整篇论文包括五个部分:第一部分简要介绍了伊迪丝·华顿及其文学作品产生的历史背景。第二部分介绍了 19 世纪后期到 20 世纪初美国消费社会的背景以及本研究的理论基础,即凡勃伦的炫耀式消费理论。第三部分是本文的重点,对《欢乐之家》中莉莉·芭特的消费表现形式以及这种炫耀式消费的心理特征进行分析,论述主要围绕莉莉在物质方面以及精神方面的消费来展开。第四部分阐述了莉莉·芭特炫耀式消费心理给她带来的悲剧性后果,具体表现在莉莉情感的丧失及其梦想的破灭。第五部分是结论部分,指出美国上流社会精神上的空虚和价值观的迷失是产生其炫耀式消费行为的根源。论文认为,莉莉式的炫耀式消费模式是扭曲的价值观的重要表现形式,值得人们引以为戒。

《欢乐之家》中莉莉·芭特炫耀式消费心理探究
  
  关键词:  《欢乐之家》;莉莉·芭特;炫耀式消费。
  
  Abstract
  
  The House of Mirth is a famous work of Edith Wharton, which reflects the tragedy of women’s life under the patriarchal system. This tragedy is related to the conspicuousconsumption psychology of the United States during the transitional period from the late 19 th century to the early 20 th century. This thesis analyses Lily Bart’s conspicuous consumption psychology from T. B. Veblen’s theory of consumption. The negative effect of consumption on American Society will be discussed combined with a close reading of the novel and a theoretical guide. The whole thesis consists of five parts. The first part is a brief introduction to Edith Wharton and her writings. The second part introduces the background of the US as a consumption society from the late 19th century to the early 20th century followed with a survey of Veblen’s theory on conspicuous consumption. The third part is the major focus of this thesis, exploring Lily Bart’s consumption performance and psychology, mainly embodied in her material and spiritual consumption performance. The fourth part is about the tragedy resulted from Lily Bart’s conspicuous consumption. The fifth part is the conclusion, summarizing that the spiritual emptiness and vanity of the people in the upper class society and commercialization are the root of conspicuous consumption. As a conclusion, the thesis points out that Lily Bart’s mode of conspicuous consumption is a symptom of distorted value towards life, which should be severely criticized.
  
  Key words:    The House of Mirth; Lily Bart; Conspicuous Consumption。
  
  Chapter One Introduction
 
  
  1.1 A Brief Introduction to Edith Wharton and Her Writings。

  
  Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was one of the most important American novelists in the late 19 th century and early 20 th century. She was born in the society of the upper class in New York, but her family was in decline at that time. When she was at an early age, she loved reading and writing. Because of being shy, she was not willing to participate in the activities of the society of the upper class. But she preferred to observe what happened in the society of the upper class with her own eyes and record the details of the “Old New York” family. The details of the old New York’s family exposed the vanity that was from the tight guarding of the wealth and the ancient reputation inherited from the Dutch ancestors. There are so many scenes that becomes the resources of Wharton’s writings materials, such as the parlor of the Fifth Avenue House, the plain brownstone room on the sidewalk, the elegant guest house,the shabby rented room, and the fashionable summer resort. These scenes make her enjoyable and help her to get the creative juices flowing. Wharton became one of the most successful novelists in that era due to her novels.
  
  Edith Wharton started writing to dispel the difficulties of family life of the upper class.Most of her short stories were stories of artists based in Europe, all of which were included in The Greater Inclination published in 1899. Her first novel, The Valley of Decision, was published in 1902. It is written in 18 th century Italy and filled with the colors of the times. In 1905, her famous work, the novel The House of Mirth came into being, which laid her status as a first-rate writer. In 1907, Wharton moved to France and made a close friend with Henry James, deeply influenced by his aesthetic thoughts. From 1911 to 1912, the novelettes Madame de Treymes and The Reef which describe the love stories between French and American women were published. The works reveal the conflicts between traditional concepts and personal desires with a tragic ending. The other novella Ethan Frome published here was also a love tragedy that profoundly demonstrated the pain of people’s feelings suppressed by social conventions and norms. After her divorce with her husband in 1913, with a lonely mood, she wrote a popular novel named The Custom of the Country about how to obliterate the high-pressure atmosphere of the eastern high society. During World War I, Wharton actively served France to rescue the wounded and refugees, and she showed her amazing organizational skills. At the same time, she continued to work on creation. In 1915 she wrote Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort. In 1918, she published the war novel The Marne. In 1923, she published the same-titled novel A Son at the Front praising France’s struggle with the dark forces in order to save civilization. In addition, in 1917 she published the companion book Summer of Ethan Frome, which described the hardship of rural life in New England and the tragic story of a girl. As a result of Wharton’s contributions to literary creation, she was received the French military honor in 1916 and was awarded the Order of the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium in 1918. After the war,Wharton still used the background of her familiar New York society. In 1920, she published the novel The Age of Innocence. She described the relationship between the young lawyer Newland and Ellen, the wife of Polish countess, finally defeating the vulgar with reason. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for the novel. In 1923, she returned to the United States to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University and became the first woman to win this honor. In 1927, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, but she was not awarded.
  
  For Wharton, critics such as Henry James often categorize her as a “psychologist”novelist because the aesthetics of the two are indeed similar. But Wharton’s novels are notlimited to the subtle exploration of the depths of the characters’ thoughts. They focus on theinfluence of the material and spiritual forces of society on the inner world of the characters.
  
  Her outstanding novels of manners profoundly expose the hypocrisy of the upper class society, truly reflect the historical era, and are filled with moral insight and high aesthetic value. Her style is natural and elegant, and there is no ambiguity. Her popularity once declined after her death, but in recent years, with the rise of the feminist movement, it has again risen. Some critics think she deserves a higher rating.
  
  Edith Wharton and the British female writer Jane Austen (1775-1817) belong to the “novelist of manners”. A novel of manners is work of fiction that re-creates a social world,conveying with finely detailed observation the customs, values, and mores of a highly developed and complex society. Most of Edith Wharton’s novels describe the stories of whatshe knows about the upper class of New York from the 1940s to the 1970s. Her famous works such as The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence and Old New York are about the stories of the upper class of New York. Wharton also wrote some novels about rural life with her keen observation such as Ethan Frome.
  
  The House of Mirth is one of Edith Wharton’s works about the local customs of the society of old New York. With the background of the upper class of New York at the turn ofthe century, the novel describes the story of a beautiful and intelligent girl Lily who tries to climb to the upper class. Lily is born in a rich family, but her family is in decline. She intends to exchange her beauty for marriage to stay at the upper class with a rich man. However,Lily’s beauty does not bring her a rich and happy marriage. She is only regarded as a beautiful ornament by the upper class and she is appreciated and utilized by men or women in the upper class. Later, Lily is ignored and expelled from the upper class due to being framed by a lady of the upper class. Finally, she chooses to eat sleeping pills to take her own life, lonely and miserably leaving the society of the upper class in which she loves and hates.
  
  The novel has truly revealed the social settings of old New York from the late 19 th century to the early 20 th century in America. With the rapid development of industry, New York had become a prosperous and fashionable city. The gap between the rich and the poor was becoming bigger and bigger. Money played an irreplaceable role in people’s social life. At that time, the United States was in the transition from production period to consumption period, and people of the upper class could buy whatever they like: luxuries, arts, and even women. Conspicuous consumption was becoming a new social fashion.
  
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  1.2 Literature Review: Studies on The House of Mirth at Home and Abroad.
  1.3 Research Methodology, Structure and Meaning of the Research
  
  Chapter Two The 19 th Century US as a Consumption Society and Veblen’s Theory of Consumption
  
  2.1 The 19 th Century US as a Consumption Society
  2.2 Veblen’s Theory of Consumption
  
  Chapter Three Lily’s Conspicuous Consumption and Identity Recognition
  
  3.1 Lily’s Material Consumption and Identity Recognition
  3.2 Lily’s Spiritual Consumption and Identity Recognition
  
  Chapter FourThe Tragedy of Lily Bart’s Conspicuous Consumption Psychology
  
  4.1 The Failure of Lily’s Marriage
  4.2 The Failure of Lily’s Dream

Chapter Five Conclusion

  The House of Mirth was published in 1905 when America was in transition from a production society to a consumption society. The novel mainly reflects the tragedy of women’s life under the patriarchal culture. Lily’s tragedy is related to the psychology of conspicuous consumption. Conspicuous consumption is the way by conspicuous waste to show the wealth of the upper class to get honor. The society is filled with impetuous desires.

  Wealth, status and power are what people pursue. The thesis mainly analyzes Lily’s psychology of conspicuous consumption by her conspicuous consumption performance. By borrowing Veblen’s theory, this thesis explores the emptiness of spiritual life and roots of Lily Bart’s tragedy. Lily’s tragedy in her failure of marriage and dream shows the indifference of the society of the upper class in the era of conspicuous consumption. Lily regards marriage as a great deal to change her fate. Lily is one of the victims in American society dominated by the fashion of pursuing material consumption.

  This paper explores the psychology of Lily’s pursuit for luxurious dress and goods,which satisfies Lily’s vanity. In Lily’s eyes, expensive goods symbolize identity and wealth.

  Lily’s value of beauty is wrong, as she takes expensiveness as the standard and symbol of beauty. Even worse, Lily regards marriage as a deal and a ladder to success. She thinksmarriage can help her gain a firm foothold in the society of the upper class. At the same time, Lily thinks friendship can be utilized for her personal interests. In the eyes of Lily, there is no real friendship in the society of the upper class. Friendship is only a tool of showing off in the upper class. The thesis points out the conspicuous consumption is the wrong value, which leads to Lily’s tragedy. As a conclusion, the thesis points out that Lily Bart’s mode of conspicuous consumption is a symptom of distorted value towards life, which should be severely criticized. In today’s fast-growing and materializing Chinese society, conspicuous consumption is present here and there. Some people are also infatuated with conspicuous consumption. We must keep a sharp eye for the problems brought about by this type of consumption.

  Reference .

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