Society in The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton Essay

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Society in The Age of Innocence 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…show more content…
All of the upper-class crowd looked down upon Ellen because of her ways. Newland wants to tell her how to act, and to stay away from certain people. Beaufort was considered a vulgar man in their society and Ellen was seen with him on many occasions, this type of thing is what Newland was trying to protect her from. She has enough shame for having left her husband, and he did not want anything else to add to her embarrassment. All of Ellen’s family discouraged her from filing a suit against her husband for divorce. She did not want his money; she just wanted to be free from him. This is true today one tries to protect others from the shadows of misfortune and to not be looked at by others in a demeaning way. Newland learned of threats from her husband and immediately wanted to protect her. Ellen’s husband would degrade her name if she indeed filed for divorce. Newland wants to prevent this, he now finds Ellen’s company irresistible. He found ways to be in her presence. One could tell Ellen felt the same way towards Newland, but out of respect for her cousin, would not act upon these feelings. Throughout the story May suspected that there was more between her husband and cousin, but she expresses it as Newland trying to do what is right by her cousin and she even suggests that he call upon her and check up on her. The story moves on throughout the lives of Newland and May. May holds
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