Revising Perseus: The Use of Mythology in Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth" and Eudora Welty's "The Golden Apples"
Wharton and Welty both offer a modernization of this myth in their respective texts, but they focus on different aspects of Perseus' story. Edith Wharton presents a modernization of the Perseus and Andromeda myth in The House of Mirth, retelling the tale from Andromeda's perspective. Following Lily Bart's quest to find a husband in turn-of-the-century New York City, Wharton presents the heroine of this novel as a modern-day Andromeda. Instead of being shackled to a rocky cliff as a sacrificial victim, however, Lily is chained to the societal pressure to marry. She is a victim of the rigid social code of this upper class in which a woman's only means to financial security and social status is marrying well. Lawrence Selden sees himself in the role of Lily's rescuer and is therefore read as Lily's Perseus figure; however, he proves unsuccessful in this role as Lily Bart dies single and penniless. Wharton thus radically revises the myth of Andromeda and Perseus because the hero does not save Andromeda in the end. Eudora Welty chooses to focus on the slaying of Medusa rather than the rescuing of Andromeda in her retelling of Perseus' story.