The Age Of Innocence Analysis

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The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is a novel about the lavish lifestyles, and social nuances of New York’s elite during The Gilded Age. While the novel gives a facade of hope and achievement, it is actually about failure and despair. The characters face many challenges, Newland Archer is in despair about his world and his future, Countess Olenska is in despair about being trapped in her marriage, and Archer and Ellen both fail at being with the person they truly love, each other. Archer is a young man who has grown up in a society that dictates exactly how a person should live their life, how they should talk, dress, and act. At the beginning of the novel, Archer seems very comfortable in this world. However, as the novel progresses, …show more content…
Her entire life is rather depressing, she is married to a count who treated her badly, and now she is trapped in her marriage. No one will help her get out of it, because there are whispers that she was having an affair with the man who helped her escape (Wharton 42). This would cause much scandal if she were to ask for a divorce, so instead, her family and Newland try to convince her to stay in the marriage. Archer tells her, “‘well then: is it worth while to risk what may be infinitely disagreeable and painful? Think of the newspapers - their vileness! It’s all stupid and narrow and unjust - but one can’t make over society” (Wharton 112). Even Newland knows that getting a divorce would be bad for her reputation, and to these people having a scandal like that in the family is worse than death. Everyone would rather that Ellen be stuck in her marriage, because the freedom she so desperately wants would cause a scandal. It is terrible that these people value their social reputation more than Ellen’s …show more content…
Archer marries May, and he does come to love her, but not the way that he has always loved Ellen. They both know that they can not be together, because Archer is publically engaged to her cousin, and Ellen is married to Count Olenski. Ellen says to Archer, “‘In reality it’s too late to do anything but what we’d both decided on.” (Wharton 171). They go their separate way, Archer marries May and he tries to forget Ellen. After his honeymoon, Archer how foolish it was of him to think that he could have ever married the Countess Olenksa, and that she “remained in his memory simply as the most plaintive and poignant of a line of ghosts” (Wharton 207). Ellen would always be there, in the back of his mind, haunting him, but he is determined to move on, and to live his life with May. Later, he learns of Ellen’s decision to leave America, and move back to Europe. Towards the very end of the novel, after May has passed away, Newland is given the opportunity to go to Europe with his son, and there his son takes him to call on Ellen. When they get to her home, Archer refused to go inside, he sits outside her apartment for hours, and the closing line of the novel is, “Newland Archer got up slowly and walked back alone to his hotel” (Wharton 361). Archer fails at being will Ellen before he is

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