The Age of Innocence

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January 5th 2011 The Death Of Innocence Characterization is a description of qualities or peculiarities. In “The Age of Innocence” Edith Wharton uses characterization over plot to emphasize the ways in which a death of innocence is taking place in society. Throughout the novel, various characters emerge who challenge the strict order of society and while they face a great deal of opposition, they often are far more complex and, more interesting than the characters who are a part of the old order. The most obvious is Countess Ellen Olenska. She is known for her exotic tastes, her worldliness, and her sophistication. Another character is Countess Olenska’s cousin, May Welland. May…show more content…
“That is, if the doctors let me go…but I’m afraid they wont. For you see, Newland. I’ve been sure since this morning of something I’ve been so longing and hoping for-“(Wharton 292). A determination is revealed as she works to defend the things she loves. A dilettante is a person who claims an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. Newland Archer himself is a dilettante. Archer believes “In matters intellectual and artistic Newland Archer felt himself distinctly the superior of these chosen specimens of old New York gentility; he had probably read more, thought more, and even seen a good deal more of the world, than any other man of the number.” (Wharton 8). Unlike some characters in the novel who are very serious about their participation in New York society, Newland believes he is above it. After the arrival of Countess Ellen Olenska, Newland was forced to re-evaluate his life. He begins to think differently about his soon to be wife. As Newland’s mind builds up fantasies about the Countess, he becomes dissatisfied with May and thinks “I am dead—I’ve been dead for months and months. And suddenly the play of the word flashed up a wild suggestion. What if it were she who was dead! If she were going to die—to die soon—and leave him free!” (290). Ellen gives Newland the sense of adventure that he has been longing for, this is causing
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