Gender Identity In Edith Wharton's The Age Of Innocence

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and others him as the weaker person remarking, “you are horribly nervous” (Wharton 166). Ellen’s drawn out masculinity before the fire allows her to recognize Newland’s lack of masculine gender performativity and she as adopts the heteronormative male’s role of othering the other sex as weaker. These reversals of gender identity are produced “as the truth effects of a discourse of primary and stable identity” formed under outside of social control (Butler 136). 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
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It can be seen that in these scenes that the characters initially perform as they have been socially conditioned to through masculine othering of women and heteronormative performativity so that the dominant, masculine male 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

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