There ha never getting away from their circumstances for Newland and Ellen, the rotagonists of The Age of Innocence.
As I continue reading Edith Wharton ’ s crisp prose and witty dialogues, I got to know Newland Archer, May Welland and Ellen, Countess Olenska.
What was inescapable from the outset is that they ere a product of New York society of their time.As Newland meets Countess Olenska, he is not prepared for her worldly persona.
Therefore it is that May and Newland make their engagement public right away, to ase the acceptance of Ellen into their social pack.
Newland starts out pretty much the same; he 's a young awyer, used to his luxurious and idle style of living; all in accord with the strict rules of society.
They were clearly not in love, just following rituals that defined that a young an should marry a nice girl with a good family.
Of course such a marriage was only what Newland was entitled to… ’ Newland and Ellen ’ s love story is nevertheless magnificent because it is the changes and character growth of both lovers that make it endearing and wonderful.
When we first meet Newland Archer he could ot have been more in tune with New York society ’ s status quo:
But Newland Archer was too imaginative not to thin that, in his case and May 's, the tie might gall for reasons far less gross and palpable.
He even starts defending new ideas, ” Women ought to be free – as free as we are ” Nevertheless, it is easies to note how typical Newland Archer was when we first meet him, how judgmental, how hypocritical:
There was nothing mean or ungenerous in the young woma ’ s heart, and he was sur that his future wife wil be restrained by false prudery from being kind ( in private) to her unhappy cousin; but to receive Countess Olenska in the family circle was a different thing from producing her in public, at the Opera of all places, and in he very box with the teenage woma whose engagement to him, Newland Archer, was to be announced in a few months.
’ He hated to think of May Welland 's being exposed to the influence of a oung gir so careless of the dictates of Taste. ’ Yes, in the en, he kne the idea of his innocent fiancé being contaminated by the worldly Countess.Nevertheless, Newland 's careful and predictable world is flipped completely upside down when he turn and really gets to now the intriguing and intrepid Countess Olenska.
Newland is changing as he falls deeper in love with Ellen.
He migh not break up from convention, although he dreams of going as far as Japan with Ellen:
Nevertheless if thi tal is told through Newland ’ s point of view, we an not sa how much Ellen suffered.
But Newland was still dreaming of breaking away from verything, of being with Ellen.
On th ong rip, ever so far off – away from everything– “ He stoppe, conscious that he had failed in his ttempt to speak with the ambivalence of a woma who longs for a change and is onl too weary to welcome it.
pattern we witness endlessly, and when Newland ponders what their marriage and family life had been like it is all summed so clearly:
Her incapacity to recognize change made her children conceal their views from her as Archer concealed his; there had been, from the irst, a joint pretense of sameness, a thin of innocent family hypocrisy, in which father and children had unconsciously collaborated. ’
Despite his transformation, we discover he will never hav a 19th century man, as we witness him saying things such as “ What could he and she really know of each other, since it was his duty, as a " ecent " fellow, to onceal his past from her, and hers, as a marriageable girl, to have no past to conceal? ”, while later he will dream of running away with Ellen.The essence of Edith Wharton ’ s fictio is whether Newland and Ellen ever had th chance?
And Ellen recognizes reality: ” Ah, my poor Newland – I suppose this had to be… You ’ re engaged to May Welland; and I ’ m married ”.
They ere set on their way before Ellen arrived and Newland and Amy made public their engagement.
If he wa gone ou to meet her, it ould be another story.I loved how it analyzed his marriage with May, the old costumes that are no more.
But too late for Ellen and Newland.
aybe more because of my age, since I know enough of life and remember all that I lost and could never simply be revisited.