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26 November 2017
The Age of Innocence Character Analysis: Newland Archer Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence is a rich novel that transports the reader to a very different time in American history. Scholar Margaret Jessee notes that Wharton’s story is “set in the Old New York of the 1870s” (37). It is interesting to note, however, that Wharton actually wrote The Age of Innocence in Europe during the “post-World I” years of the 20th century (Jessee 37). Wharton’s novel is, therefore, written from the fascinating and unique perspective of a woman who experienced the events of both the late 19th century and the early 20th century (Evron 39). The actions of the novel’s main character, Newland Archer, are a reflection of this perspective. Newland Archer is troubled by the traditions he feels obligated to adhere to, his heart is torn between recklessness and reason, and his mindset is, in some ways, a reflection of the author’s own mentality. Newland Archer makes a number of critical observations about society pretty early on in The Age of Innocence. His ideas on feminine empowerment, for example, are reflected in his opinions about the various women in his life. Archer hopes that he can encourage May Welland to think for herself. The narrator notes that Archer does not want his wife “to be a simpleton,” and that he wants her “to develop a social tact and readiness of wit” (Wharton 6). He also has a high regard for women who are considered untraditional and who command respect. This outlook can clearly be seen in his opinion of “Mrs. Manson Mingott, the Matriarch of the line” (Wharton 9). Mrs. Mingott is a woman who was not expected to be successful after the death of her husband. The article “Bourdieu, Wharton and Changing Culture in the Age of Innocence” offers further insight into the nature of Mrs. Mingott’s authority: “Like her namesake, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, Mrs. Mingott wields real and symbolic power” (Singley 510). Archer is said to have “always admired the high and mighty old lady” (Wharton 9). Newland Archer’s desire for a more sophisticated wife and his respect for the head of the Mingott family reflect the forward-thinking
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His image was formerly of the utmost importance to him: he arrived late to the Opera because it was “the thing” to do (Wharton 4) and “few things [seemed to him] more awful than an offense against ‘Taste’” (Wharton 12). When Ellen, the black sheep of the Mingott family, made an appearance at the Opera, Archer at first becomes annoyed that this “strange foreign woman” was attracting negative attention to the box of his betrothed, May Welland, and agrees with fellow high society onlooker, Sillerton Jackson, that the Mingotts should not have “tried it on” (Wharton 10). But, upon spending time with Ellen, Archer’s pretentiousness begins to dull and his self-alienation from the rules of society begins. During a dinner with Sillerton Jackson, Archer defends Ellen and even goes so far as to say that “Women ought to be free – as free as we are,” though he was painfully aware of the “terrific consequences” his words could bring (Wharton 34).
Innocence is something that people lose as they grow older from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood and get more exposed to new things as they grow up. Innocence is important in the novel because it was the one thing that Holden was trying to hold on to by trying to save another person’s innocence but is also trying to lose his own. There are situations where there would be a loss of innocence and would influence Holden because he is transitioning from different stages of his life. In a coming of age story, losing innocence is a sign of growing up and change. This is seen through characters that have effected Holden in a way, just like how Allie’s death showed him the harsh reality of life, and symbols like the record he
The balance of power has been one of mankind’s most prominent and fought-over issues, particularly among the two sexes. Men are biologically predisposed to be more powerful, and humans have historically associated a male’s physical strength with authority. At the same time, women have been conditioned to yield to a man’s power, and have been taught that men are meant to hold economic, societal, and domestic control, as displayed by New York’s high-society in Edith Wharton’s timeless novel The Age of Innocence. Yet, power is an unquantifiable, metaphysical idea completely unrelated to one’s gender. Power is held in the eye of the beholder, and over time, women have used this idea to manipulate and control men without them even knowing. In doing so, women have been creating their own power for centuries, though society does not recognize it nor give them credit for having as much control as they do. Despite its setting in a patriarchal 19th century society, Wharton manages to defy even modern gender roles by contrasting the influence of resolute Ellen Olenska—a presumably promiscuous noblewoman—with lawyer Newland Archer’s submissiveness so as to suggest that women truly hold power over men during this time.
In The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton portrays gender through the juxtaposition of Ellen and May. May is the type of woman who personifies innocence. She always keeps up with her appearance and personality even when she
Born in 1862, Edith Wharton Newbold Jones was brought up within the graceful, wealthy yet conservative, confining circle of New York society, which fostered sexual repression and prided itself on the innocence of its young girls. Edith Wharton herself was discouraged from expressing her emotions or developing her intellect which was supposed to be very unbecoming traits in a woman. This is the reason why she stressed in her fiction the need of growth, and has shown how painful and frustrating this process can be for a woman. This process of growth and development is revealed in her major works, Ethan Frome (1911), and Summer (1917) (Balakrishnan 1).
Holden’s view of life is that it can be very cruel and unfair. The origin of this thinking is from his younger brother Allie. He feels guilty that he is essentially wasting his life away, while Allie died so very young of Leukemia. This is a huge part of his entire journey. Holden always describes Allie as a very smart and kind person that he looked up to, which is why he feels life is so cruel.
In the novel, to kill a mockingbird, Harper Lee presents three very distinct types of innocence that are portrayed by different characters throughout the novel. A good part in this story’s brilliance is that Harper Lee has managed to use the innocence of a young girl to her advantage. She does this by telling the whole story from a child’s point-of-view. By having an innocent little girl make racial remarks and regard people of color in a way consistent with the community, Lee provides the reader with an objective view of the situation. As a child, Scout can make observations that an adult would often avoid. In addition, readers are also likely to be forgiving of a child’s perception, whereas they would find an adult who makes these
The Age of Innocence, written by Edith Wharton in 1920, is a novel about Newland Archer, set in New York in the 1870s. In the beginning of the novel, Newland is engaged to May Welland, however when her cousin Ellen Olenska returns from Europe, he begins to doubt who he really loves. Due to societal norms, Newland stays with May and never consummates his relationship with Ellen, despite their growing feelings towards each other. At the time of writing The Age of Innocence, Wharton was reading Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1914), a 14 volume work on anthropology, which consisted of myths, customs, and magical practices. This collection sparked interest for Wharton, potentially inspiring her to enlist many allusions to classical
Growing up sucks, anybody who is currently a teenager or was understands that and will fully acknowledge it. There is just something about this age group that life changing events occur, whether or not the person is ready or not to experience them. Most of the time, it is something like learning what a curse word means or experiencing the act of sexual intercorse at a young age. But sometimes it can be as serious as losing a loved one, being the victim of sexual assault, or any other traumatic event that just like a punch to the gut, acting is a welcome call to what is about to come. In author J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, it recalls the story by the narration of a
“In all our lives, there is a fall from innocence. A time after which, we are never the same.” – Stand By Me. Innocence can be found at any age or any point in one’s life. It means chastity, freedom from wrong, lack of knowledge, SIMPLICITY. When one has innocence the world seems easy without any worries, however that can all change when one loses their innocence. The loss of innocence can feel as though one has fallen into a black hole and can never escape, darkness, voicelessness, LONELINESS. In Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club”, Nadine Gordimer’s “Once Upon a Time”, and Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak”, the authors use main and supporting characters to show a loss of innocence at a young age. In “The Joy Luck Club” loss of innocence is expressed through the old woman from the fourth parable, “Queen Mother of the Western Skies”. In “Once Upon a Time” loss of innocence is expressed through the young boy. In “Speak” loss of innocence is expressed though Melinda. Although all three of these characters go through the same struggle of loss of innocence, Anderson’s character Melinda is able to come to terms with her loss and regain her strength. In these three stories, Tan, Gordimer, and Anderson use the theme of loss of innocence to portray loneliness, fear, and barriers to show how one can learn from past experiences.
In the rural town of Maycomb, Alabama, Scout Finch lives with her brother, Jem, and Father, Atticus. Scout teaches many lessons as well as defies stereotypes. Scout gives readers her perspective of things. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses the growth and characterization of Scout to reveal to readers how innocence slowly falls away through Scout’s obliviousness about other people, Scout’s protection towards her family, and Scout’s curious ways.
The pressure of conformity affects individual expression and varies in degrees in which it impacts an individual’s life. Regardless of time period, conformity is able to force individualists to abide by the social standards inculcated into society and deemphasize the importance behind individualism. In the 1920s, New York City adopted a structure parallel to conformity in its figurative hierarchy after the grief and devastation of World War I. With fear of the unknown, a reestablishment of tradition and routine followed, including an adaptation to the use of silences. The individuals with class and power used silence as a vehicle to conform and unify but, free-willed individuals gave another purpose to silence. It became a tool to express
Newland declares to the table that women have the right to be “as free as [men] are” (Age of Innocence 38). As the women talk further about Ellen, Newland states that he is sick of the “hypocrisy that would bury a woman” for preferring to be with her husband, contrary to what others believe (Age of Innocence 37). Newland sees a small connection between the women’s opinions and his own relationship with Ellen. He begins to see he must make a choice between Ellen and May, unbeknownst to him that his choice will be what is “socially acceptable” to old New York (“Edith Wharton” 2). Newland then decided that May should have the same “freedom of experience” he has (Age of Innocence 42).
The Age of Innocence, written by Edith Wharton, is about the upper-class society of New York City in the 1870’s. The novel follows the life of an upper-class lawyer named Newland Archer. He is going to wed May Welland, who comes from another upper-class family. As the novel progresses Newland starts to become intrigued with May’s cousin, the poor Ellen Olenska. Ellen is called “poor” because she is shameful in the eyes of the society that surrounds her. Ellen left her husband and moved back to New York City to be with her family. Divorce is not acceptable in the 1870’s high society like it is today. Newland tries at first to protect Ellen from the bad reputation that she will perceive if she divorces
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is a book that gave the word “love” many other meanings, such as impossible, meaningless and incomplete. There were many unbearable obstacles that Countess Ellen Olenska, one of the main characters, had to face because of love. She was treated badly by many people and always longed for love but never obtained it. With everyone cursing her, betraying her and hurting her, there was one person who was always there for her. Newland Archer wasn’t only sympathetic towards her; he also began to fall in love with her. The love she always wanted. He was the man who truly cared for her and always helped her make decisions. Out of all the selfish people in New York who