This inner conflict for Newland and recognition of fluidity continues in the scene as:
He continued to lean against the chimney-piece, his eyes fixed on the hand in which she held her gloves and fan, as if watching to see if he had the power to make her drop them. ‘May guessed the truth,’ he said. ‘There is another woman.’ […]After a moment he sat down beside her, and taking her hand, softly unclasped it […] She started up, freeing herself from him and moved away to the other side of the hearth. ‘Ah, don’t make love to me! […] she said, frowning. (Wharton 168-169)
Archer’s mental attempt to control and other Ellen to regain his masculinity fails under the influence of the flames that he is inches away from. This lack of success shows how othering is unsuccessful because of the ability of the sexes to be fluid in both masculine and feminine expression where Archer cannot act in what is considered a masculine way in the situation while Ellen can. What is more is that this dream-like thought process is commonly noted to be a feminine action “to satiate [a] girl’s narcissism […] as she [in this case Newland] is afraid to confront the reality of her existence” (Beauvoir 354). Newland’s inability to control Ellen and increased imagination near fire shows how fire has drawn out ...
... middle of paper ...
...le and the feeble, feminine woman remain in their prescribed roles and do act the way the other sex would. However, as their performances progress, the destabilization of strictly divided masculine and feminine gender identities occurs where Ellen, Newland, and May act in the opposite manner that is expected and is made possible because of the influential presence of fire. The similarity in fire and gender is dependent on the notion that through fire there are multiple “sexual resonances” a person can experience and the resonances in this text are that of fluid gender identity (Bachelard 50). The Age of Innocence uses this relationship of fire and gender to argue for gender identity in its honest form as variable and unstructured as opposed to the arguments that claim heteronormative and divided conceptions of gender are the only existent forms.
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