Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Benedick. Apartment house near Grand Central Station. When Lily meets Lawrence Selden at the station, he invites her to tea at his apartment at the top floor of a building fronted by a “marble porch and pseudo-Georgian façade.” Benedick means “bachelor,” and it is a perfect name for Selden and his lodgings for he is confirmed in his single state. Lily meets Sim Rosedale, the owner of the Benedick, on her way out and lies to explain where she was. This is the first in a series of untruths which help propel her journey downward.
Bellomont. Country home of the Trenors, located on the Hudson River several miles north of the city. Most of the upper-class characters in The House of Mirth maintain apartments in the fashionable sections of New York City but also have country homes a few miles outside the city. Lily exists on the edge of this society: She lives at the home of her wealthy aunt and is dependent on the hospitality of friends for her social life. Lily’s beauty and charm are apparently the compensation for her lack of money. She ought to be trying to catch a husband; however, she cannot bring herself to do it. At Bellomont, for example, she allows the wealthy Percy Gryce to elude her. Rather than attend church with him, she slips away to spend time with Selden, who is unable to make a commitment to her. At a later visit to Bellomont, Lily participates in a tableau vivant, a “living picture,” in which she holds a pose many of the men find seductive.
Mrs. Peniston’s house. Lily Bart’s aunt’s house on Fifth Avenue. Since her parents’ deaths, Lily has lived with Aunt Julia. When Mrs. Peniston hears rumors about Lily and Gus Trenor, she tells Lily that she has been disgraced and refuses to help her with her financial troubles.
*Monte Carlo. Capital of the principality of Monaco on the Riviera known for its casinos and luxurious hotels. Lily is saved from her aunt’s fury by an invitation to accompany the Dorsets on their cruise to the Mediterranean. Bertha Dorset has invited her to come in order to hide her own affair with Ned Silverton. Lily meets Selden here, who warns her to abandon the yacht before she is further compromised, but it is already too late. In Monte Carlo, the American upper class appears even more decadent and immoral than at home in New York.
The pace of Lily’s descent quickens in the last third of the novel. Mrs. Peniston dies, and Lily is disinherited. She is forced to become a social secretary for Mrs. Hatch, who lives in a fashionable New York City hotel. When she loses that position, she briefly gets a job at Madame Regina’s, a fashionable haberdasher. She is “a star fallen” and even stays in the rooms of Gertie Farish, a friend as impoverished as herself. She makes a final visit to Selden’s apartment in the Benedick, and visits the small, clean rooms of Nettie Struther, a working-class woman Lily has earlier helped, and then returns to her own poor room, where she dies from an overdose of sleeping pills. Edith Wharton shows that Lily has been the victim of a rigid social class system that allows women few opportunities in their lives and little freedom. Lily finds, not a “house of mirth,” but the house of death.