The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton Essay example

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton Essay example

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This book should is relevant to the high school curriculum because it teaches certain morals, and raises questionable ideas about the way the children should perceive society standards. It is a historical teaching, by showing the teenagers the mentality behind the 1870’s society. Edith Wharton usually wrote in her stories several themes that involved the Higher Class in New York during the time. The ironic situations that presented themselves within society. A couple that she focuses the most are, the theme of personal happiness, the hypocrisy of society, the cruelty of society against someone who went against the “moral” standards, the contradictions within society norms and double standards for women, and the importance that the old New Yorkinian society gave to the marital status.

In the book when the author writes about seeking personal happiness. She presents Newland Archer, the main character as a wealthy lawyer, to be a part of a love triangle , yet he is “happily” engaged.


In the beginning of the book Newland had just announced his engagement to May Welland, a young woman from a socially acceptable upper-class family. Then Ellen Olenska, May’s cousin comes from Europe after discovering that her husband had been cheating on her. In her time staying with the Welland’s Ellen and Newland fall in love. At the end he has to choose one of the two, Newland sacrifices his happiness to maintain everyone's reputation. Just because of the way that he was raised, “with proper family values” Newland ends up marrying a woman his family accepts, May.

As well one of the themes that Wharton presents in “The Age of Innocence” is hypocrisy within the society. The author presents the New York society during the 1870s that i...


... middle of paper ...


...ess. Everyone looks down upon her for having an affair while they at the same time they simply ignore his behavior.

Another theme in the “The Age of Innocence” is the importance that the 1870’s New Yorkinian society gives to women marital status. This is expressed in the story when everyone privately and openly disapproves of Ellen leaving her husband, her family and friends intentionally treat her like a leper, because of her divorce to the Count Olenski. Most of the characters in the book don’t change, in a spiritual, nor behavioral manner. This book would be beneficial to high school students because of the moral lessons within the stories, the plot of the story is an eye opener, about society, an individual surroundings, society morals and codes, the sociological aspects of history, the mentality and behavioral mannerism of the High class in the 1870’s.

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