Society In The Age Of Innocence

994 words - 4 pages

Society in The Age of Innocence
The Age of Innocence, written by Edith Wharton, is about the upper-class society of New York City in the 1870’s. The novel follows the life of an upper-class lawyer named Newland Archer. He is going to wed May Welland, who comes from another upper-class family. As the novel progresses Newland starts to become intrigued with May’s cousin, the poor Ellen Olenska. Ellen is called “poor” because she is shameful in the eyes of the society that surrounds her. Ellen left her husband and moved back to New York City to be with her family. Divorce is not acceptable in the 1870’s high society like it is today. Newland tries at first to protect Ellen from the bad reputation that she will perceive if she divorces her husband. In the end he just wants her to be free and desires to be with her for the woman she became. There are still different levels of society in the world, but the lives of distinction are perhaps not as evident.
On the eve of Newland and May’s engagement announcement, Newland meets Ellen for the first time. They were all attending the opera and Newland was noticing how the rest of his peers were talking and making slurs about poor Ellen. He did not like this because he thought it would look bad upon May. He wants May to be known socialite after they wed. Newland states that, “He did not in the least wish the future Mrs. Newland Archer to be a simpleton.” (7) Even before the engagement he already thought by her timid ways that she would not be the way he wanted her to be in their society. He could not believe that May’s family allowed Ellen to attend a public event such as the opera. He also did not want May to be badly influenced by Ellen. While being introduced to Ellen, they both realize they knew each other as children and had played together. This did not change Newland’s opinion of her at that time. It took more time getting to know Ellen before he has feelings for her. The more Newland was around Ellen, the more he wanted to protect her. “Women ought to be free-as free as we are.” Newland declared.(41) He is tired of the way society is dictating the way people should live. All of the upper-class crowd looked down upon Ellen because of her ways. Newland wants to tell her how to act, and to stay away from certain people. Beaufort was considered a vulgar man in their society and Ellen was seen with him on many occasions, this type of thing is what Newland was trying to protect her from. She has enough shame for having left her husband, and he did not want anything else to add to her embarrassment. All of Ellen’s family discouraged her from filing...

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