Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence Essay

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Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence

“As he entered the box his eyes met Miss Welland’s, and he saw that she had instantly understood his motive, though the family dignity which both considered so high a virtue would not permit her to tell him so. The persons of their world lived in an atmosphere of faint implications and pale delicacies, and the fact that he and she understood each other without a word seemed to the young man to bring them nearer than any explanation would have done.” (Wharton 16) This statement vividly illustrates the power of the unsaid within New York society during the 1870’s, the time in which The Age of Innocence was set. At that time, there existed a powerful set of rules, regulations, and codes pertaining to
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Although there are many times in the novel where thoughts and feelings are left unsaid, there is no relationship more affected by it than that of Newland Archer and May Welland/Archer.

Right from the initial example the reader can see that Newland and May subscribe wholly to Society’s dictates concerning appropriateness of public behaviour. They do not discuss the fact that Archer would like to announce the engagement earlier in order to assist May’s family in protecting Ellen Olenska. In place of a discussion on this issue, there exists an exchange of glances that Archer sees as a mutual understanding between he and May. This understanding exists in this case, and in others yet to be analyzed, without any verification of its accuracy having ever taken place.

The second time that the unsaid played an imperative role in the relationship of Newland and May was in Chapter XVI when he had travelled to St.Augustine to advance the date of their wedding. This is a paradoxical point in the novel where the reader may feel as if May was abandoning all of the social customs in order to speak what was on her mind, yet as the conversation progressed she spoke her mind only to an extent and the couple subsequently left what would have been the most important part of
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