The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton's most famous novel, is a love story, written immediately after the end of the First World War. Its brilliant anatomization of the snobbery and hypocrisy of the wealthy elite of New York society in the 1870s made it an instant classic, and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921. Newland Archer, Wharton's protagonist, charming, tactful, enlightened, is a thorough product of this society; he accepts its standards and abides by its rules but he also recognizes its limitations. His engagement to the impeccable May Welland assures him of a safe and conventional future, until the arrival of May's cousin Ellen Olenska. Independent, free-thinking, scandalously separated from her husband, Ellen forces Archer to question the values and assumptions of his narrow world. As their love for each other grows, Archer has to decide where his ultimate loyalty lies. Stephen Orgel's introduction and notes set the novel in the context of the period and discusses Wharton's skilfull weaving of characters and plot, her anthropological exactitude, and the novel's autobiographical overtones.
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE is Edith Wharton's insider's look at New York society at a time when an address above 12th Street was considered the wild frontier. May Welland, demure and pretty, is born and bred to marry Newland Archer, a thoughtful barrister. He in turn loves the brazen, unconventional, and attractive Countess Ellen Olenska, who has left her Count behind in Europe and returned to New York alone to get over a bad marriage. As the delicacies of this love triangle are played out, Wharton takes the opportunity to effect a subtle critique of America's East Coast upper classes, not only painting a deliciously detailed portrait of old New York and the rigid rules that governed society, but also providing readers with entertainment of the highest order. With this novel, Edith Wharton became, in 1921, the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize.
- Fiction + Literature Genres, Romance, Fiction + Literature Themes
- Stages of Life, General, Types of Characters, Human Qualities + Behavior, Conflicts + Dualities, Love + Relationships + Sex, Classics
- Oxford Univ Pr
- December 15, 2008
- December 15, 2008
- Edith Wharton