The age of innocence - analysis

3x puncte

categorie: Engleza

nota: 9.40

nivel: Facultate

One of the individual's foremost duties is to promote and protect the solidarity of his tightly knit group of blood and marital relationships. In the second chapter of the book, Archer is expected, despite his initial unwillingness to associate with the scandal-garnering Countess Olenska, to enter the Mingott family's opera box in order to support their decision to bring the Countess out in public[...]
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One of the individual's foremost duties is to promote and protect the solidarity of his tightly knit group of blood and marital relationships. In the second chapter of the book, Archer is expected, despite his initial unwillingness to associate with the scandal-garnering Countess Olenska, to enter the Mingott family's opera box in order to support their decision to bring the Countess out in public. Later in the novel, when Ellen wishes to reclaim her freedom by divorcing her philandering husband, she is discouraged from this action because the family fears unpleasant gossip.

And of course, Ellen and Archer's decision not to consummate their love is based largely on their fear of hurting the family.
Ostensibly, this duty to the family and to society ensures that each individual will behave according to a strict code of morality. However, Wharton is quick to demonstrate how easy it is to find loopholes in this code. Another of her large themes is that appearances are seldom synonymous with realities. Hypocrisy runs rampant in Old New York. Larry Lefferts, who self-righteously proclaims himself to be a pillar of moral rectitude, is also one of the biggest philanderers in the novel.

The upstanding families who so eagerly attend Julius Beaufort's balls, who depend on his lavish hospitality as the center of their social activities, are the same ones who continually disdain his "commonness" and who will mercilessly exile him following his business collapse. In an ironic twist of this theme, Old New York assumes that Ellen and Archer are in the midst of a torrid affair, when in reality, they decide to part rather than to hurt those they care about.
This profound sense of irony leads, inevitably, to the question of Wharton's choice of title. To what extent is the era of Old New York truly an "Age of Innocence"? As is typical with a gifted writer like Wharton, there is no single answer.
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