Essay about Relationships in Wharton's The Age of Innocence

1253 Words6 Pages
Newland Archer desires to be a free soul in old New York, differing from those around him. May Welland’s actions and naivety help Newland realize he wants to break away from the norm of society. Ellen Olenska arrives in New York to stay with family during her divorce with a Polish Count. Ellen and Newland are formally introduced by May, beginning Ellen and Newland’s odious relationship. Ellen offers a fresh change to Newland’s monotonous lifestyle; she shows Newland the excitement of going against the moral code. After Ellen’s arrival, Newland briefly believes he wants to be with someone who is not like women from New York, and when given the chance to be with Ellen, Newland turns it down, showing he is truly an old-fashioned man at heart.…show more content…
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). Newland wishes to shorten him and May’s engagement, but continues to secretly see Ellen. Newland loves and wants to marry May because it is socially acceptable, but also desires to run about with Ellen without feeling they are being scrutinized. While walking in the park on a Sunday afternoon with May, Newland is “proud of the glances turned on her”, enjoying that she is envied by others and he has May all to himself (Age of Innocence 70). Newland frequently ponders if he should tell May about his visits to Ellen, but instead, he merely begins to “talk of their own plans” avoiding the subject completely by discussing the long engagement. After many visits to see Ellen and working with her on the divorce, Newland begins to fall in love with Ellen, creating a
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