Julianne's Reviews > The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
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Jul 02, 2012

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Should one do as society expects or act according to his or her own will? That seems to be the central question Edith Wharton explores in her works.

*Review below may contain spoilers*

It's a tough call, especially when one is to think about duty, loyalty, and protecting the interests of one's family. However, to only do as one is expected due to the pressures placed upon the individual by the society to which one belongs will not guarantee happiness, as Newland Archer later learns. The one thing I am still trying to wrap my mind around is how he thought that he could marry a woman he does not love and have the woman he does love as his mistress. May already suspected that Newland didn't love her, and she had given Newland the chance to walk away before they were even married. Yet Newland marries her anyway because that was what society expected of him. In doing so, he denied himself the true happiness he could have had if he had followed his own heart and married Ellen, even if rich New York society thought it was in bad taste. Newland Archer is a character that will exasperate you, and yet also draw your sympathy, for he mourns a life that could have been if only he had just been braver in following his own heart in the first place.

To wear a mask one's entire life is no way to live, and this is perhaps the message conveyed through the novel.

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