Edith Wharton's The Age Of Innocence

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The Age of Innocence is one of the most famous novels of Edith Warton since it won the Pulitzer in 1921. It is placed in 1870 old New York. It explores its society, its conventionalisms and its rigid system in which everything has an order and a purpose. We are introduced to a love triangle which will show us a society that fears scandals more than feelings. Trough the three main characters, Edith Wharton portrays a society she knows well, and that eventually would have to flee. She got married at 23, and then, because of her husband’s multiple affairs, she got divorced and moved from that conservative New York to Europe. She had to do that because otherwise she would have never had a chance to start a new life. Her personal
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She represents the apparent and polite innocence, almost ignorant, women should adopt. May makes every effort to maintain the imposed social order, accepting it passively, and pushing away anything and everything that might challenge it. ‘Ah, no, he did not want May to have that kind of innocence, the innocence that seals the mind against imagination and the heart against experience!’ (Wharton 1920). There might be a debate about whether May was truly innocent or it was simply a façade to manipulate everyone around her who might jeopardize her social appearance. We are told that she indeed died innocent, but her announcements about her pregnancy lead us to think otherwise. ‘No; I wasn't sure then--but I told her I was. And you see I was right!" she exclaimed, her blue eyes wet with victory.’ (Wharton 1920)
Is the age of innocence not so innocent after all? Is this imposed innocence the root of all of our character’s problems? We believe Wharton was ironic when choosing the title for this novel. The novel is not about the age of innocence, but a criticism of the innocence of the New York high class. Through May’s character, who was supposed to be innocence at its finest, we get to find out that it all was just her weapon to maintain these unwritten rules
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We also learn that this is a situation that can not be changed because, as we can see on Ellen and Archer’s characters, those who try to decide what is best for the individual are never going to succeed against these codes.
As a conclusion, The Age of Innocence is not about truly an age of innocence, because characters and society show the reader they are exactly the opposite.

Do you think this novel is a tragedy?
This novel is actually a tragedy because no one can ever do what they desire forcing them to follow what its been stablished. Ellen and Archer are imposed to recognize they are not going to be happy, because it is more important no to make a scandal that could hurt their families. And May is also aware that she is married to a man that does not love her, but she has to deal with it, again for her family’s good and for herself as well.

Why does New York’s society fear change?
Europe was evolving too fast for them; they felt more secure in their old manners, and Europe represented new ways of living and thinking, new ways that they perceived as a danger to what they had established. There’s also a chance that New York’s elite felt superior to the Old World, as they thought innocence was an effective weapon that Europe

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