The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence

eBook - 2012
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Edith Wharton was the first woman ever to win the Pulitzer Prize: in 1921 with this book. It is a story of class-clash and scandal set in 1870s New York. A fantastic classic read.
Publisher: [Luton] : Andrews UK Ltd., ©2012.
ISBN: 9781781668016
Characteristics: 1 online resource


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Mar 31, 2020

New Yorker Newland Archer has just become engaged to the innocent May Welland when he meets her cousin, the exotic Countess Ellen Olenska. Tired of social conventions, he falls in love with her unorthodox ways and begins to regret his marriage. ⁣⁣
One question I repeatedly asked myself was the usage of “innocence” in the title. Does it refer to May’s apparent artlessness during her husband’s obsession with another woman? Is it a gentle mocking of the social traditions of the New York society, which allows for anything but innocence? Or is it Newland Archer’s own naivety in a world he thinks he despises, but in which he is also deeply embedded? ⁣⁣
It might have been all three and more, but to me, the last is the most significant. ⁣⁣
Throughout the novel, I had difficulty understanding the “love” between Newland and Ellen, which seemed arbitrary and unsubstantiated. ⁣⁣
And my opinion? Because it is not love. Newland is not choosing between two women, but rather between the New York upperclass life, represented by the traditional May, and the freedom embodied by Ellen. He becomes bored of the New York life just before he meets the latter, whose very social identity is that of a woman scandalously separated from her husband— so is Newland in love with her, or in love with what she represents? ⁣⁣
And would he have been happier with Ellen instead? I think not. Despite Newland’s scorn for May’s old-fashioned ways, he is also often disturbed by Ellen’s oblivion to them. Moreover, regardless of the identity of his wife, the root of the problem — the stifling New York atmosphere — would remain the same.⁣⁣
Unfortunately, Newland does not recognize this issue until after May’s death, by which time both his rebelliousness and societal restrictions have waned. When presented with the opportunity to see Ellen again after holding her close to his heart for decades, he realizes that the Ellen he loves is one of his imagination. ⁣⁣
Yet it is too late undo his mistake — his misconceptions have lasted decades too long, and the age of innocence is now forever long gone.

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patienceandfortitude Aug 19, 2012

Ultimately, I didn't really love this book. Maybe I've just reached a point in life where the ethics of love and the pressures of society don't interest me all that much. Not my cup of tea, although I liked the beginning and the end better than the middle.

filmguy86 Jun 14, 2012

I feel richer for the experience of this book! Wharton was certainly at the height of her literary prowess. The book is difficult, but the story--if you stick with it (especially around about pg. 100)--reaches out and applies to everyone who wishes to learn more about themselves. "The Age of Innocence" is more than literary modernism, or a relic of the Victorian Age in the US--it's a guide for understanding the roots of our society and how these traditions shape the surface of today.

Jun 06, 2011

I love this book - Edith Wharton has a very good sense of humour.

Jul 27, 2010

So boring I didn't even finish it....but my friend did and from what she told me it wasn't worth finishing.

hermlou Mar 27, 2010

Victorian New York City is the location of this novel. Wharton describes the constrictions of upper class society as she tells of a love story between Newland Archer and the exotic Countess Olenska. The language is rich and depicts the behaviour and language of the time. To me the best line was "atmosphere of faint implications and pale delicacies".

Jul 16, 2008

Amazing book (and the film is good too). Again, Wharton shows the social pressures of the time and how they affect women, marriages and love. Old New York vs. New New York are pitted against each other as well.


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ArapahoeSusanW Oct 06, 2016

Scathing tale of societal pressure set in "Old New York".
Wharton at her best!


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Jul 16, 2008

"Her eyes were wet with victory."

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