Archer In The Age Of Innocence By Edith Wharton

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Newland Archer: Newland Archer is the main character and protagonist of The Age of Innocence. Newland comes from one of New York City’s wealthiest families and is a well-respected lawyer who values tradition. He is described as having an amateur interest in the arts when Edith Wharton states “He had dawdled over his cigar because he was at heart a dilettante, and thinking over a pleasure to come often gave him a subtler satisfaction than its realization” (Chapter 1, page 4). What makes him novice is the fact that he is much more intellectual than most men his age. Newland follows the conventions that go along with being a young man in society “such as the duty of using two silver-backed brushes with his monogram in blue enamel to part his…show more content…
Being the cousin of May Welland, she is welcomed, apprehensively, into New York upon her arrival. Ellen, being raised in Europe, had an unconventional upbringing, different from that of high society children. She arrives in New York without a husband, seeking divorce and rumours surrounding her about a previous affair, a great source of scandal to the wealthy who avoid drama at all times. Society is afraid of change and Ellen, being different, is a great source of fear for them, worried that change will arise in their society. This is evident when Wharton comments “To the general relief the Countess Olenska was not present in her grandmother’s drawing-room…it spared them the embarrassment of her presence, and the faint shadow that her unhappy past might shed on their radiant future” (Chapter 4, page 29). Despite the fact that she is not completely accepted into society, she exuberates unusual confidence. Newland thinks her confidence to be extremely attractive despite any scandal surrounding her as Wharton states “But there was about her the mysterious authority of beauty, a sureness in the carriage of her head, the movement of the eyes, which without being in the least theatrical, struck him as highly trained and full of conscious power” (Chapter 8, page 52). Ellen demonstrates an ability to speak her mind and even speak out about things that she does not like about New York…show more content…
May Welland is described as being completely naïve. Wharton comments on May’s innocence as she states “She had nothing to conceal, assured because she knew of nothing to be on her guard against; and with no better preparation than this, she was to be plunged overnight into what people evasively called ‘the facts of life’” (Chapter 6, page 38). May values the tradition, values and beliefs of society and holds them above anything else. May demonstrates how much she has been shaped by New York when saying “But why should we change what is already settled?” (Chapter 2, page 15). With this question, May shows that she fears change just as any other member of society would. As time goes on, and May gets older, and more experienced in her marriage, Newland feels less towards his wife and bored in their marriage as Wharton comments on May saying “Now she was simply ripening into a copy of her mother, and mysteriously, by the very process, trying to turn [Newland] into a Mr. Welland” (Chapter 30, page 251). While the novel progresses, May maintains her image of innocence but we see elements where her innocent character is just a façade. Newland recognizes the wisdom in May when Wharton states “It did not hurt him half as much to tell May an untruth as to see her trying to pretend that she hadn’t detected him” (Chapter 28, page 241). By the end of the novel,

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