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Jan 2013 -The Age of Innocence > Title *May contain spoilers*

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message 1: by Karena (new)

Karena (karenafagan) What is important about the title of Edith Wharton's novel?


message 2: by Kiss-koczka (new)

Kiss-koczka (kisskoczka) | 36 comments This title is excellent it is like one of those painting where the title helps you see the work in a completely different angle and with that it helps you understand it more. (like Dali`s burning giraffe)
In this case it helps you see that innocence really is a social construction. If enough people thinks you are innocent that it becomes true.
Of course you see the irony of the title but for them at that time that was a proper way to behave so you cannot really judge them by our standards, or at least you are not suppose to


message 3: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Clark If you want to download this book on project gutenberg FOR FREE, here are the links:

eBook: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/541

Audiobook: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/26458


message 4: by Jessica (new)

Jessica T. (jessicaola) maybe the innocence was their love..


message 5: by Jessica (new)

Jessica T. (jessicaola) I haven't read this since the Daniel Day Lewis movie came out......


message 6: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2 comments Just started reading the first chapter and I love how Wharton describes every little detail of how people dressed. She was a keen observer of her times.


message 7: by Sue (new)

Sue I have got the film saved on my digi box :). Hope to reread the book though.


message 8: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Daniel wrote: "If you want to download this book on project gutenberg FOR FREE, here are the links:

eBook: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/541

Audiobook: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/26458"


Thanks for the links. I want to get started but I haven't gotten my own copy out of storage yet. (Oh to have a house with enough bookshelves again.) :-)

Anyway, thanks!


message 9: by Laurie (new)

Laurie | 151 comments I am excited about reading this book. I saw the movie with Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer back in the early 1990s and loved it. I bought the book not long after the movie and never read it. It has been on my bookshelf for close to twenty years. Where does time go?


message 10: by LaLaLa Laura (new)

LaLaLa Laura  (laurabhoffman) I am still reading the book, but I think that "Innocence" is partially a reference to May. Archer frequently views her as innocent in contrast to Ellen.


message 11: by Karena (new)

Karena (karenafagan) I will get another thread started with other options for this book. Thanks Daniel for reminding me!


message 12: by Evalien (new)

Evalien | 5 comments I've been wanting to read this one for ages as well. Glad to finally give it a go. It's the first book I'm reading with this Group. So far it's giving an interesting insight on the period and I like how the main character is developing ideas about more equality for men and woman. No more innocence?


message 13: by Tarik (new)

Tarik Kanafani (ktarik2011) This is my first post here as I just joined the group.

I agree with Laura, in what I've read so far (8 chapters), that "innocence" could certainly be in reference to May. Whenever Newland is thinking about May, he always contemplates and speaks of her innocence, which is a quality he seems to like in her.

I also agree, Evalien, that Wharton gives great insight into this period of time. Not only through the descriptions of locations and wardrobes, but also through the characters ideologies and what is frowned upon during this era.


message 14: by Kiss-koczka (new)

Kiss-koczka (kisskoczka) | 36 comments May probably will surprise you guys...


message 15: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Alleger | 9 comments I just finished Book One today. I'm sure the title is meant to be ironic, and I'm excited to find out what you mean Kiss-koczka! I watched the film 'The House of Mirth' the other night (an adaptation of another of Wharton's novels.) Mirthful? HA! :)


message 16: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (secoker4) However, it seems that he questions her innocence as a hindrance into developing a relationship that he would find satisfying. He seems to think that "innocence" also means "simple;" and a simple woman is not what he is after. You can see this in how he offers her literature and things to de-simplify her thinking.

Tarik wrote: "This is my first post here as I just joined the group.

I agree with Laura, in what I've read so far (8 chapters), that "innocence" could certainly be in reference to May. Whenever Newland is think..."



message 17: by Tarik (new)

Tarik Kanafani (ktarik2011) Sara-the more I've read, I see exactly what your saying and agree. His likability of "innocence/simplicity" has changed throughout.


message 18: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Curtis (jcurtis) | 15 comments Beverly wrote: "Just started reading the first chapter and I love how Wharton describes every little detail of how people dressed. She was a keen observer of her times."

I will need some help with this one. I will need a volunteer to stand by me and stick me with something sharp so I don't fall asleep. What am I missing? This "Age of Innocence" is not clicking with me. I started reading this novel that so far is about how the author can use as many words as possible to describe the clothing of the period. Then there is all that gossiping. Is this it? or should I continue with this novel in hopes it will get better?


message 19: by Meera (new)

Meera I'm about 65 percent done with the novel and I actually had trouble putting it down last night. i agree that the title is ironic. While May is "innocent", Archer seemed to have realized even when he became engaged to her that it was a forced, artificial innocence that was a product of her upbringing.


message 20: by LaLaLa Laura (new)

LaLaLa Laura  (laurabhoffman) jCurtis. I like your candor! haha! I know in terms of the great detail that it reflects the personalities of the characters. Ellen's clothes and apartment for one reflect her carefree, independent attitude. the book gets a bit better. hang in there!


message 21: by Ellen (new)

Ellen (blueyedangelgrl) | 7 comments Interesting to see what innocence was during that time and how it was viewed. Reading it in modern times, it is impossible (for me at least) to refrain from comparing to our current culture. Innocence is seen by Archer as a positive virtue. This might change later in the book (I'm not too far into the book) but today it seems innocence is equated with being naive. Just my thoughts so far.


message 22: by Leslie (last edited Jan 03, 2013 06:50PM) (new)

Leslie | 5 comments Ellen wrote: "Interesting to see what innocence was during that time and how it was viewed. Reading it in modern times, it is impossible (for me at least) to refrain from comparing to our current culture. Innoce..."

Seems to me that Archer's perception changes as we go along... I'm now finished with 21 chapters and at first he holds May up as a shining example of simple, elegant innocence. Even despite the disturbing thought that I've run across before, that men sometimes see this quality in women and have a sense that they want to destroy that. Hence I believe the thinking Archer expresses about liberating May: an expression of the desire to destroy what he perceives to be her innocence. Even their marriage did not seem to change this innocence in her. If anything, May's innocence seems to be an anchor or even something more valuable to Archer on a deeper level. In my opinion, even though he wants to liberate her, there is a piece of Archer that wants her to stay the same forever, even though he struggles with what seems to be a black hole of nothingness, the result of living a life where nothing ever happens. It's the reason why he couldn't go off with Ellen. He needs to believe in May and her purity. Whether or not she changes the equation before the end of the story remains to be seen.


message 23: by Tee (new)

Tee I see the age of 'innocence' as referring to a time when society cherished 'innocence'. Ellen Olenska is not innocent. She needs to be taught 'innocence' as the books goes on. Hence, she's a blacksheep. May, appear innocent, which is fine. Who cares if you're not actually innocent...it only matters that you appear 'innocent'.
Just my two cents.


message 24: by Laura (new)

Laura Sultan (paramaya) Personally, I see the 'Innocence' in the title as a reference to Newland's own innnocence in many ways. His initial blind acceptance of societal mores is one example of how naive he is in the beginning.


message 25: by Marti (new)

Marti Magsombol (martimagsombolyahoocom) | 3 comments This is my first post since joining this group last evening.

I agree with Laura by saying that "innocence" could refer more to Newland Archer. It has been some time since I finished the book but I believe Newland gives more justice to the title than May. I remember his childish remark that nothing can be more awful thannan offence in taste.

Newland Archer, is well bred, educated and works in an old law firm where most of the gentlemen like himself, only do so little but enjoy their achivement of respectability and importance. He attends opera, visits the galleries in Europe and so on. Doing all the things a what he thinks, a gentleman of his rank to do.

But then again, he is a harsh judge of his fellow men. He alluded Winsette as a young man who gave up too easily, Jackson a gossip, Lefferts a philanderer and Beaufort a scoundrel in business. Even with May, he judges her as being a naive little thing and argues that there is nothing that she can do or say that will ever suprise him. Yet he fails tomidentify his own immaturity, his own naivety about the ways of his world. He picures himself as a free agent, less susceptible to the claims of the social world. His imagination also contributes greatly to his innocence, his fancies tend towards the untried and unorthodoxed. Like his statement to Sillerton Jackson, "women ought to be free-- as free as we are." And when Countess Olenska asks to be his mistress, he says"I want somehow to get away wih you into a world where words like that--categories like that-- won't exist." He is a dreamer, and a romantic, which makes his love story sympathetic. His innocence forbade him to understand how his actions affected his life, until it was too late.


message 26: by Jaqui (new)

Jaqui | 11 comments I dont want to read all of the comments since there might be spoilers but Im on Chapter 3 and its sooo boringg. Someone, please tell me it gets better?


message 27: by LaLaLa Laura (new)

LaLaLa Laura  (laurabhoffman) jaqui yes it does get better. what could be monotonous are the details of the book.

in terms of the title, I'm wondering if "Innocence" should be changed to "Ignorance" with the character of May and even Archer. although I'm thinking May is more perceptive than we give her credit for. we shall see. I'm still reading it.


message 28: by Natasha (new)

Natasha (natashareads) I wonder if the innocence is referring to Countess Olenska? Ellen is innocent in the sense that she does not understand NY society: she truly believes that people mean what they say. For much of the book, Ellen also appears unaware that her ways (living where it's affordable at a "wrong" address, e.g.) fly in the face of the values and customs of this new world she's entered.


message 29: by Travis (new)

Travis (travistousant) I find the most innocence in newland archer. He is thrown into so many events just for the reason he is perceived as that. May asks him to take care of her cousin. The family and lawyers ask him to takr care of her as well with the divorce which is bound to draw the two closer. May leaves town for an extended time and poor Archer in spite of his upbringing and knowing how one should be socially and whats accepted amd expected at the end of the day is still but a man. He tries so hard todo whats right yet there still lies that primal instinct within all of us. If Archer wasn't a good man so many wouldn't of relied on him and put him into such intimate settings with the countess to begin with. Innocent or naive even as he trues and would like to think he is so aware of what he is doing and what is going on around him.


message 30: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Curtis (jcurtis) | 15 comments Jaqui wrote: "I dont want to read all of the comments since there might be spoilers but Im on Chapter 3 and its sooo boringg. Someone, please tell me it gets better?"

Jagui, I remarked on this boring book earlier and I did find one good thing about this storyline...if you have trouble falling asleep read a couple of paragraphs of this book and you will soon be fast asleep.


message 31: by Shannon (new)

Shannon Marie (CrochetQueen8307) I've been wondering the same thing, does it get any better? I find myself daydreaming a lot of the time. I don't want to read too many of the comments either. I'm bound and determined to finish everything I start, so mark my words, I will finish this book! ;)


message 32: by Travis (new)

Travis (travistousant) Shannon wrote: "I've been wondering the same thing, does it get any better? I find myself daydreaming a lot of the time. I don't want to read too many of the comments either. I'm bound and determined to finish eve..."

I am also of the have to finish variety even though I keep twlling myself put the book down and back away.


message 33: by Natasha (new)

Natasha (natashareads) Natasha wrote: "I wonder if the innocence is referring to Countess Olenska? Ellen is innocent in the sense that she does not understand NY society: she truly believes that people mean what they say. For much of th..."

On second thought, I am thinking the title may be ironic: no one is innocent, but all act as if they are.


message 34: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 6 comments I think the title is because the characters put on a show. Part of their culture is that it is proper to be "innocent." They shelter the women and "train" them to be fit for marriage.

When Archer stows away to see May in St. Augustine he has to explain his actions. And when he kissed her it was only for the second time. I realize today's society is much different, we're lucky to keep children as virgins before marriage, but kissing doesn't seem that improper... Especially if they are engaged to be married.

In this case the innocence is a social status that each character tries so desperately to uphold. It's interesting to read the details and methods for gossiping, which isn't an action someone who is innocent would do. The characters are far from it, which brings so much more life into the title.


message 35: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 5 comments Having such a difficult time reading this book. I am on chapter 3. I think I am going to re read those because I might be missing something...


message 36: by Jaqui (new)

Jaqui | 11 comments Kristen wrote: "Having such a difficult time reading this book. I am on chapter 3. I think I am going to re read those because I might be missing something..."

I am on Chapter 6 and I feel the same way! I keep getting all of the people confused and how they relate to each other. I think Im going to start a new board WITHOUT SPOILERS...


message 37: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Alleger | 9 comments Finishing the book I see now that the title, in addition to being ironic, refers to the beginning history of a modern New York City, a city governed by a scant society with black and white social values. The time period at the end of the novel historically would have seen the inclusion of the city's outlying boroughs, and with Wharton's description of Archer's descendants, a much more liberal social attitude, especially towards marriage.


Beth (bibliobeth) | 36 comments Some great comments here, I think the title refers to all of them also - in a deeply ironic way. Even May, who Archer holds up as almost the perfect innocent, surprises us. Does pure innocence exist?


message 39: by Wendy (new)

Wendy I think that Wharton uses innocense in irony, as the innocence in the context of the book is most definitely manufactured.


message 40: by Kika23 (new)

Kika23 | 15 comments Wendy wrote: "I think that Wharton uses innocense in irony, as the innocence in the context of the book is most definitely manufactured."

I agree with you, Wendy. The characters are expected to pretend ignorance on facts that are well-known by everybody. Ellen is the one who doesn't fit in this environment because she doesn't pretend. She has to learn to hide and conceal, so the innocents don't get contaminated by her inconvenient presence.


message 41: by Angie Downs (new)

Angie Downs To me, the title is ironic. Almost noone in the novel is truely innocent, especially of malicious behavior. The idea that this time period is the "age of innocence" is laughable because people are so judgmental and aware of unacceptable behavior, but willing to tolerate it because their order of society tells them to. Not only that, but these individuals will blame the victims. However, this isn't the societal rule as a whole at that time, only of the rich, so there is no definitely other societal understandings and beliefs in New York at the time.

I think Newland is just a representation of the societal ignorance of the time. Even though Newland seems innocent because he is under the restraints of the society, he is not innocent because he sees the errors of society and acknowledges that there are major discrepancies and imbalances between the rights of men and women. I feel like Wharton uses Newland to show how intolerable the behavior of the upper echelon of society in New York is at this time, and to show how absolutely "guilty" - NOT innocent - society actually was.


message 42: by CassieV (new)

CassieV The Merriam-Webster definition of "Innocence":

"Definition of INNOCENCE

a: freedom from guilt or sin through being unacquainted with evil : blamelessness

b: chastity

c: freedom from legal guilt of a particular crime or offense

d (1): freedom from guile or cunning : simplicity (2): lack of worldly experience or sophistication

e: lack of knowledge : ignorance "


I think the beauty of this novel is in the shades and layers of meaning that Wharton uses. For instance, Archer sees May as the D type of innocence, when in reality I would say it more accurately defines Archer himself. Ellen, to me, would be more of an A or C type.

So, I'd say, for me, as far as the title goes it's about a time ("age"), of society as well as in their lives, when they dealt with the implications of innocence (through all the above definitions).


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