The Age of Innocence

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During the 1870’s, Old timey New York modeled a much different atmosphere than Europe, which was still recovering from war. The way that author Edith Wharton viewed the society around her was one of expectations. There were expectations for men and for women. For the most part, these expectancies were unspoken rules on manners, dress attire, good company, and any other detail regarding one’s appearance to others. However, because of social determinism, Americans were not as “free” as they believed. The Age of Innocence presents a representation of the constant social trap that forced people to mask their true feelings because of the ever-imposing desire to always seem at their best. One of the main subjects of the story is the lack of morality in Old New York. The city is renown for its “rigidities about form, family, and financial problems” and is the “epitome of rectitude” (Kozloff, 273). However, Wharton exposes the city as actually being very hypocritical and being victims of falling into the social trap of masking one’s true identity. For example, the books main male character, Newland Archer, finds out that all of his close family and friends are actually acting “as a band of dumb conspirators, and himself and the pale woman on his right as the centre of their conspiracy” (Kozloff, 273). It is sad really that there is no honesty about one’s self in this society and everyone wears a mask of “well-being” to cover up their secrets. Cannedy 2 The three central characters in the story include, first, Newland Archer, a wealthy lawyer who is engaged to the beautiful May Welland; second, May a young debutante who models the stereotypical woman of Old New York society, “…(a) young girl in New York so handsome and intelligent” (Wh... ... middle of paper ... ...inally, Wharton demonstrates through the separation of Archer and Ellen that people must put aside their personal desires for the greater good of the social dimension. Works Cited Evron, Nir. "Realism, Irony and Morality in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence." Journal of Modern Literature 35.2 (2012): 37-51. JSTOR. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. Jessee, Margaret J. "Trying It On: Narration and Masking in The Age of Innocence." Journal of Modern Literature 36.1 (2012): 37-52. JSTOR. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. Klimasmith, Betsy. "Salvaging History: Modern Philosophies of Memory and Time in The Age of Innocence." American Literature 80.3 (2008): 555-81. JSTOR. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. Kozloff, Sarah. "Complicity in The Age of Innocence." Style 35.2 (2001): n. pag. Literary Reference Center. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence. New York: Scribner, 1968. Print.

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