"The Age of Innocence" - Women's Struggle With Victorian Dogma
823 WordsJul 17, 20184 Pages
Unlike Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Kästner’s Fabian, Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning work, The Age of Innocence (1920) is not set after World War I. In fact, her work is set prior to it at the turn of the century. She describes Old New York from late 19th and early 20th century in great detail, “New York society and customs…are described with an accuracy that is almost uncanny: to read these pages is to live again.” She also looks at the upper class, instead of middle and lower class society with its dance halls of debauchery and improper solicitations. The threat of modernity after war and depression are not factors in her work. Yet, not all of the elements and motifs seen in Kästner and Fitzgerald are absent. Wharton pays…show more content…
His world and New York society is turned upside down by the arrival of the scandalous Countess Olenska. The rules of society, force the Countness into Archer’s life and that of his betrothed, May Welland. His encounters with the Countess reveal to him the incongruities and confinements of New York high society. He is disillusioned by her and supports the Countess’s need for independence and freedom. Archer’s fondness of her develops into a forbidden returned love. The Countess is a modern woman; an affair would only further confirm societies view of her. Yet, the affair never comes to fruition. Archer’s wife, the Countess’s cousin, becomes pregnant and the Countess leaves for Europe. Archer and the Countess never meet again.
Wharton's work shows her experiences and views of Old New York society, women, and the rigid social code of high society that permeated the rest of society. Wharton also creates a dualistic vision in her work similar to Kästner and Fitzgerald’s. Yet, Wharton’s dualism does not reflect moral geography, but instead both the strengths and failings of the old society and she celebrates the new society in choosing a very positive character, the Countess Olenska, as its representative. Wharton compares the new age and century with that of her own past. While Wharton’s work does not engage the war directly, this does not mean that it did not draw a comparison to it. It does poses as both a memoir for Wharton's youth and