The concept of Lily’s defiance through submission — of Lily rebelling against the system of exchange by simply adhering to its rules — is worth paying close attention to in Dimock’s essay. Dimock constructs an argument in which Lily is a deviant within the society of exchange, acting in ways that rebel against its logic.
Dimock writes, “She is penalized, then, not for breaking the rules but for observing them. This sort of absurdity is the logic of nightmare, but it is just this absurd logic that makes the exchange system work. In its disfiguring light, Lily’s ‘rebellion’ takes on the correspondingly absurd form of playing by the rules, of rebellion by submission,” (383).
How is it that by playing by the rules of the system of exchange Lily is rebelling? One instance is when Lily pays back her debt to Trenor in its exact equivalence, $9000. Here, Dimock argues that, “By making money its own equivalent, Lily reduces it to its own terms and defies its purchasing power,” (383). To Dimock, then, participation within the system of exchange means allowing currency in its various forms to equal — or to be negotiated as equaling — things that it is not. In this case, Trenor expects his money to equate to sexual favors from Lily, which Lily defies.
If we are to discuss the work that this argument accomplishes, it seems as though our reading of Lily’s tragic fall must change. Her self-destructive actions, especially burning the letters which were her last remaining “asset”, become demonstrations of the fallacious logic within the system of exchange. She will no longer partake in the negotiations wherein things are equated to other things which they are not. Lily defies the system of exchange by allowing it to destroy her. We, as readers, are forced to seek out answers as to why Lily would allow it to destroy her.