This thesis will discuss how the dominant mode of communication presented in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, and The Custom of the Country can be labeled a "play of perception." Perception in these novels is portrayed as a "play," where men and women of New York's nineteenth-century "Society" or the leisure class have distinct roles to act out. The processes of observation and objectification influence the lives of the literary characters of these novels, where the woman is being observed, while the man is the one watching the woman's spectacle of self. Perception is portrayed as a relational, creative process in Wharton's fiction, where the male gaze may help establish the woman as symbol and object, but she also objectifies herself, by consciously planning her appearance. The creative process of perception will be treated both structurally and thematically in this thesis, as Wharton's narrative technique underscores her thematics. She, for instance, uses male focalizers who struggle to understand the object they observe, and her literary technique thus also reflects a "problematic play of perception."