Essay on Immortality and Myth in The Age of Innocence

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Immortality and Myth in The Age of Innocence Edith Wharton’s books are considered, by some, merely popular fiction of her time. But we must be careful not to equate popularity with the value of the fiction; i.e., we must not assume that if her books are popular, they are also primitive. Compared to the works of her contemporary and friend, Henry James, whose books may seem complex and sometimes bewildering; Wharton’s The Age of Innocence appears to be a simplistic, gossipy commentary of New York society during the last decade of the 19th century*. Instead, it is one man’s struggle with the questions of mortality and immortality. Wharton’s characters, settings and the minutiae of social rituals, manners, speech habits, dress and…show more content…
Urns and wall paintings tell us about the mythical characters’ predilection for a sensual life; this compares to Wharton’s characters’ penchant for their own hedonistic life of carousing, sexual cavorting and dizzy social calendars of parties and operas. The Greeks, mythical and real, were masters of architecture and decoration, which to this day, attest to their immortality. Wharton pays great attention to the mansions and embellishments of the New York houses. Her society attempts to be immortal in its own buildings; and by amassing ornate bits and bobbles from ages past and paintings and decorations, the society feels it will live on forever: Then the house had been boldly planned with a ball-room, so that, instead of squeezing through a narrow passage to get to it (as at the Chiverses’) one marched solemnly down a vista of enfiladed drawing-rooms (the sea-green, the crimson and the botron d’or), seeing from afar the many-candled lustres reflected in the polished parquetry, and beyond that the depths of a conservatory where camellias and tree-ferns arched their costly foliage over seats of black and gold Bamboo.

Wharton’s characters, albeit mortal beings, are made immortal and some can even be compared with mythical characters. We’ll begin with the lesser characters. Newland Archer's sister, Janey who: “was subject to starts and

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