Edith Wharton's use of Irony in Age of Innocense

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Throughout the novel, the author’s voice appears to criticize the empty morals of Old New York, where she once belonged. With refined use of irony, Wharton explored the established social order that prevented individuals to deviate from the traditional structure. The novel’s Archer Newland is one who failed to break “through barriers of convention” and can’t escape “steely embrace of the tribe” (Auchincloss 44). Despite being the protagonist, Archer fails to break away from the tight-knit group. Archer’s life is in a settled pattern; His indecisiveness prevents expression (McDowall 54). In the beginning of the novel, Archer acts according to the molded product he is supposed to be. Archer was proud to be a New Yorker, someone in the upper class with refined taste and morals. This ended when Countess Olenska returned to New York, in want of a divorce with her husband in Europe. The New York family wanted to prevent this divorce because of propriety. They send Archer, a lawyer, to convince Ellen against it. As the story goes, Archer falls in love with Ellen because of her mysteriousness of unconventionality. By acting as the family’s messenger, Archer “sabotages his own quest”. Due to inconvenience, Archer wants to overthrow the principles he once lived by (Hadley 37). He suddenly realized “That terrifying product of the social system he belonged to and believed in, the young girl who knew nothing and expected everything, looked back at him like a stranger through May

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