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The Age Of Innocence, By Edith Wharton

908 words - 4 pages

This book should is relevant to the high school curriculum because it teaches certain morals, and raises questionable ideas about the way the children should perceive society standards. It is a historical teaching, by showing the teenagers the mentality behind the 1870’s society. Edith Wharton usually wrote in her stories several themes that involved the Higher Class in New York during the time. The ironic situations that presented themselves within society. A couple that she focuses the most are, the theme of personal happiness, the hypocrisy of society, the cruelty of society against someone who went against the “moral” standards, the contradictions within society norms and double standards for women, and the importance that the old New Yorkinian society gave to the marital status.

In the book when the author writes about seeking personal happiness. She presents Newland Archer, the main character as a wealthy lawyer, to be a part of a love triangle , yet he is “happily” engaged.

In the beginning of the book Newland had just announced his engagement to May Welland, a young woman from a socially acceptable upper-class family. Then Ellen Olenska, May’s cousin comes from Europe after discovering that her husband had been cheating on her. In her time staying with the Welland’s Ellen and Newland fall in love. At the end he has to choose one of the two, Newland sacrifices his happiness to maintain everyone's reputation. Just because of the way that he was raised, “with proper family values” Newland ends up marrying a woman his family accepts, May.

As well one of the themes that Wharton presents in “The Age of Innocence” is hypocrisy within the society. The author presents the New York society during the 1870s that ignores reality and pretends to act innocently to the point were physical violence does not exist, so pure and innocent that a kiss in public, is outrageous. When in reality the majority of the characters were the opposite: cruel. When May throws Ellen a farewell party, it shows the dark side of this society, were May is portrayed as a sweet and innocent young maiden. Unlike many previous parties that Ellen attended, many come to the party in her honor to see Ellen finally leave New York. Hoping that with her departure their society could return to the way it had always been. Everyone seems to be gentle but most are actually vicious human beings.

Another theme used in “The Age of Innocence” is the cruelty shown to those that go against the codes of society. Wharton wrote about this theme through Ellen, when most of the character when speaking of Ellen would refer to her as “poor Ellen” but they treated her like an...

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