"The Age Of Innocence" Women's Struggle With Victorian Dogma

800 words - 3 pages

Unlike Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Kästner’s Fabian, Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning work, The Age of Innocence (1920) is not set after World War I. In fact, her work is set prior to it at the turn of the century. She describes Old New York from late 19th and early 20th century in great detail, “New York society and customs…are described with an accuracy that is almost uncanny: to read these pages is to live again.” She also looks at the upper class, instead of middle and lower class society with its dance halls of debauchery and improper solicitations. The threat of modernity after war and depression are not factors in her work. Yet, not all of the elements and motifs seen in Kästner and Fitzgerald are absent. Wharton pays particular attention to women and social change; especially in the context of Victorian virtues and expectations. To Wharton, Old New York forced its members to follow dogmatic rules and expectations for nearly ever course of actions including: mannerisms, popular fashion, and behaviors. Scorn and exile were reserved for those that violated the social codes. These virtues and social rules were the very same rules that Flappers and the New Woman specifically debased after World War I, “Mrs. Wharton is all for the new and against the old: here, at all events, her sympathies are warm. She would never … fear youth knocking at the door.”
Like her contemporaries, Wharton was a well established author by the time she wrote The Age of Innocence. Her “admirable career” claimed the titles of The House of Mirth, Edith Frome, and several others that captivated the American and European publics. The Age of Innocence, however, won her a Pulitzer Prize. She won it for the works “silver correspondences”, its wisdom, and its highest standard of American manners and manhood.” Wharton’s works were very well-liked, as were several of his other novels and short stories. Like Fitzgerald and Kästner, several of her works were best sellers converted into films as evidence of her popularity.
Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence portrays the life of New York socialite, Newland Archer. His world and New York society is turned upside down by the arrival of the scandalous Countess Olenska. The rules of society, force the Countness into Archer’s life and that of his betrothed, May Welland. His encounters with the Countess reveal to him the...

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