Analysis Of Edith Wharton's 'The Age Of Innocence'

Decent Essays

Sofia Herzog
Ms. Mittleman
E track AP Language and Composition
10 October 2017
Declaration of the Rights of the Boomerang Generation
Human society, specifically contemporary, argues for a sense of safety at the cost of one’s freedom. As H.L. Mencken wrote, “The average man does not want to be free. He simply wants to be safe.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “safe” is derived from the Sanskrit word sarva, which is translated as “entire,” while “freedom” is acquired from the Sanskrit word priya, or “one’s own.” Linguistically, safety is already prioritized in the modern world as a state of being whole or a part of oneself within a greater being. Belonging to oneself, however, is a fearful predilection; therefore, the human condition is one in denial of the liberties of being by limitations presented to us by technology and modern life as we know it. May Welland, a symbol of safety in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, is described as a product of a sheltered household and society. In Chapter I of Book One, she is first seen at the opera with “eyes ecstatically fixed on the stage-lovers. As Madame Nilsson’s ‘M’ama!’ thrilled out above the silent house” (Wharton 5). Immediately, she is styled as a servant to an external force, as she peers into a private moment on stage in order to draw upon the culture of a fantastical and dramaticized love, as this is all she supposedly knows. It is perfectly appropriate that the Italian pun “M’ama” is used here, as

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