Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence

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Edith Wharton’s novel, The Age of Innocence, has an ironic twist to the plot of the story. The official definition of irony is: the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect. Many famous novels have an ironic twist to the plot of the story. Such novels, Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Flies, and The Great Gatsby. “The Age of Innocence takes place during the last breath of New York high society, although its members did not sense the dramatic changes coming to their world” (Hadley11).1 Wharton, uses irony typically for a humorous effect. Irony is also used as an autobiographical effect. The role of irony in The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is a major theme in Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Wharton uses the novel The Age of Innocence as a source of ironic twists that tie into her autobiographical effects. Edward R. (Teddy) Wharton, Edith Wharton’s past husband, is diagnosed with manic depression. Mr. Wharton also has many affairs during his marriage with Edith Wharton. “By the time Wharton wrote this book, she had survived an unhappy 25 year marriage” (Cliffnotes).2 She ignored her husband’s affair and business just like May Welland in The Age of Innocence. “What is most striking in the two volumes, other than the similarity of tone discernible in all the tales, is Edith Wharton’s preoccupation with the irony of things, especially in the connection with man’s failures” (Plante 421).3 “Wharton shares significantly with Archer is neither character nor biography but rather a particular situation: that of outliving that had formed her” (Evron 1).4 Wharton uses Newland Archer as a major role of irony in her novel, The Age of Innocence. “W... ... middle of paper ... ...and Hermeneutics,” New Literary History 12.1 (1948): 11-27. Rpt. in Realism, Irony, and Morality in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Nir Evron. Standford University. Print. Saunders, Judith P. “Ironic Reversal in Edith Whartons ‘Bunner Sister’”, in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 14. 3. (1977): 241-245. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Thomas Votteler. Vol. 6. Michigan: Gale, 1990. Print. Sholl, Anna McClure; “The Work of Edith Wharton,” in Gunton’s Magazine Vol. 25. (November, 1903): 426-432. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Thomas Vottele. Vol. 6. Michigan: Gale, 1990. Print. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Age of Innocence.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. n.d., Web. 25 March. 2014. “Themes in The Age of Innocence.” Cliffnotes.com. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt., n.d., Web. 25 Mar. 2014. Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence. New York: D. Appleton, 1920. Print.
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