The Age of Innocence

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The Age of Innocence The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, contains many flat, static characters representing Old New York society. At the apex of that society is Mr. and Mrs. Henry van der Luyden. As the narrator describes, their appearances are rare, but yet these few appearances provide more than enough information for the reader to "know" the characters. This information comes from several sources. The first is the narrator, when most of Old New York society is described. The second reference involves Newland Archer and Mrs. Mingott’s seeking of approval of the van der Luydens and the exchanges that took place. The final instance is the rare occasion of a dinner at the van der Luyden home and the occurrences here. From the information here, readers develop a complete picture of the van der Luydens. At the end of chapter VI, the narrator describes the hierarchy of Old New York. The last family described is the van der Luydens. The narrator writes, "…the van der Luydens…stood above all of them" (50). The narrator blatantly tells us that the van der Luydens are the highest "ranking" family of Old New York society. Just previous to this, the narrator informs the reader that they descended from both British and French aristocracy, supporting the fact that the van der Luydens are the most revered family. Next the narrator makes it known to readers that "[Mrs.] and Mr. van der Luyden were so exactly alike… neither had ever reached a decision without prefacing it by [a] mysterious conclave" (52), this conclave being, "I shall first have to talk this over with my husband/wife." This shows that, one, the van der Luydens cannot be characterized separately for they are exactly alike, and, two, they consult each other before making decisions. Once again the narrator brings forward, quite openly, information about said characters. The narrator’s informing the reader of such facts sets up the reasoning behind the character’s motivations, and the reactions of other characters. One of such instances involves Archer and Mrs. Mingott’s seeking of the advice of the van der Luydens. First, it is important to note that double-checking one’s plans, as Archer does here, indicates the high status of the van der Luydens. Archer and Mrs. Mingott’s having to ask another family for the "proper" thing to do proves their dominance over society and that they are the experts of "good form.

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