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The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
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The Age of Innocence (1920)

by Edith Wharton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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  1. 51
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (readerbabe1984)
  2. 30
    The American by Henry James (2below)
    2below: Similar plot and themes--both deal with the issue of being an outsider. I find James' prose a bit more vigorous than Wharton's.
  3. 31
    The Bostonians by Henry James (jbvm)
  4. 31
    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (readerbabe1984)
  5. 21
    The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (TineOliver)
    TineOliver: Both look at love and marriage in the upper classes of New York society (however, at different time periods)
  6. 21
    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (roby72)
  7. 11
    The Europeans by Henry James (thatguyzero)
  8. 23
    Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (readerbabe1984)
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"In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs."

Through Newland Archer is who we see Old New York. Archer's opinions of May is to believe that she is an innocent and hollow person, Archer does not realize his wife's depth until the end when his son reveals:

" 'She said she knew we were safe with you, and always would be, because once, when she asked you to, you'd given up the thing you most wanted.'

Archer received this strange communication in silence. His eyes remained unseeingly fixed on the thronged sunlit square below the window. At length he said in a low voice: 'She never asked me.' "


I watched the movie version directed by Martin Scorcese, immediately after reading this. It was brilliantly done and lush in setting and emotion.
( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
"In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs."

Through Newland Archer is who we see Old New York. Archer's opinions of May is to believe that she is an innocent and hollow person, Archer does not realize his wife's depth until the end when his son reveals:

" 'She said she knew we were safe with you, and always would be, because once, when she asked you to, you'd given up the thing you most wanted.'

Archer received this strange communication in silence. His eyes remained unseeingly fixed on the thronged sunlit square below the window. At length he said in a low voice: 'She never asked me.' "


I watched the movie version directed by Martin Scorcese, immediately after reading this. It was brilliantly done and lush in setting and emotion.
( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
Originally Posted @ Novel Reveries
This book was really educating in the use of wit, observation, and overt description of personalities and environment to convey the tone of the victorian age of society. Edith Wharton's writing style is elaborate, yet the overall comprehension flows beautifully as the world is seen through Newland Archer's eyes. Newland must deal with the customs of New York society, as disgusted as he may feel towards some of them, and watches as "a haunting horror of doing the same thing every day at the same hour besieged his brain." (40) It is because of these monotonous "innocent" customs that he feels a deep love towards Ellen Olenski, as it is in her nature to sort of go against the grain and flout from the victorian age New York society. The ending was, to me, unexpected and was quite a disappointment as it left me hanging with the uncertainty of Newland Archer's fate and happiness. In all, the book was beautifully written and told in a matter that called for a reevaluation and the reformation of how we act and think in our society.

Quotes:
"'Women ought to be free--as free as we are,' he declared, making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure the terrific consequences." (20)

"What could he and she really know of each other, since it was his duty, as a "decent" fellow, to conceal his past from her, and hers, as a marriageable girl, to have no past to conceal. What if, for some one of the subtler reasons that would tell with both of them, they should tire of each other, misunderstand or irritate each other?" (21)

"'We can't behave like people in novels, though, can we?'
'Why not--why not--why not?'" (39)

"Ah, no, he did not want May to have that kind of innocence, the innocence that seals the mind against imagination and the heart against experience!" (68)

"There was no use in trying to emancipate a wife who had not the dimmest notion that she was not free..." (90)

( )
  Dnaej | Mar 14, 2014 |
Originally Posted @ Novel Reveries
This book was really educating in the use of wit, observation, and overt description of personalities and environment to convey the tone of the victorian age of society. Edith Wharton's writing style is elaborate, yet the overall comprehension flows beautifully as the world is seen through Newland Archer's eyes. Newland must deal with the customs of New York society, as disgusted as he may feel towards some of them, and watches as "a haunting horror of doing the same thing every day at the same hour besieged his brain." (40) It is because of these monotonous "innocent" customs that he feels a deep love towards Ellen Olenski, as it is in her nature to sort of go against the grain and flout from the victorian age New York society. The ending was, to me, unexpected and was quite a disappointment as it left me hanging with the uncertainty of Newland Archer's fate and happiness. In all, the book was beautifully written and told in a matter that called for a reevaluation and the reformation of how we act and think in our society.

Quotes:
"'Women ought to be free--as free as we are,' he declared, making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure the terrific consequences." (20)

"What could he and she really know of each other, since it was his duty, as a "decent" fellow, to conceal his past from her, and hers, as a marriageable girl, to have no past to conceal. What if, for some one of the subtler reasons that would tell with both of them, they should tire of each other, misunderstand or irritate each other?" (21)

"'We can't behave like people in novels, though, can we?'
'Why not--why not--why not?'" (39)

"Ah, no, he did not want May to have that kind of innocence, the innocence that seals the mind against imagination and the heart against experience!" (68)

"There was no use in trying to emancipate a wife who had not the dimmest notion that she was not free..." (90)

( )
1 vote Dnaej | Mar 14, 2014 |
I really dislike the flash-forward scenes at the end of the book. Also, I can't get the image of Michelle Pfeiffer as Countess Olenska out of my head from when we had to watch the movie in high school. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 175 (next | show all)
So how can Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence possibly be the greatest New York novel of all time? Well, it is. It builds itself, obsessively, out of all the essential New York themes.
 
The appearance of such a book as "The Age of Innocence" by an American is a matter for public rejoicing. It is one of the best novels of the twentieth century and looks like a permanent addition to literature.
 

» Add other authors (141 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edith Whartonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Auchincloss, LouisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dayne, BrendaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, MaureenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, DianeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewis, R.W.B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lively, PenelopeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orgel, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raver, LornaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shore, StephenPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Lawrence BeallIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.
Quotations
And he felt himself oppressed by this creation of factitious purity, so cunningly manufactured by a conspiracy of mothers and aunts and grandmothers and long-dead ancestresses, because it was supposed to be what he wanted, what he had a right to, in order that he might exercise his lordly pleasure in smashing it like an image made of snow.
It was the old New York way of taking life" without effusion of blood": the way of people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than "scenes", except the behavior of those who gave rise to them.
When he thought of Ellen Olenska it was abstractly, serenely, as one might think of some imaginary beloved in a book or a picture: she had become the composite vision of all that he had missed.
"That terrifying product of the social system he belonged to and believed in, the young girl who knew nothing and expected everything, looked back at him like a stranger through May Welland's familiar features; and once more it was borne in on him that marriage was not the safe anchorage he had been taught to think, but a voyage on uncharted seas."
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
In the conformist, closed world of upper-class New York, Newland Archer anticipates his marriage to May Welland, a young girl "who knew nothing and expected everything". Into this ordered arrangement bursts May's cousin, Ellen, the mysterious and exotic Countess Olenska, on the run from an appallingly unhappy marriage. She alternately captivates and outrages the New York milieu and, as Newland's sympathy for her deepens into love, he not only gains insight into the brutality of society's treatment of women, but discovers the real anguish of loving outside its rules. Critical, compassionate, and acutely perceptive about both the individual and the defensiveness of society, The Age of Innocence is perhaps Edith Wharton's finest work.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 159308143X, Paperback)

Somewhere in this book, Wharton observes that clever liars always come up with good stories to back up their fabrications, but that really clever liars don't bother to explain anything at all. This is the kind of insight that makes The Age of Innocence so indispensable. Wharton's story of the upper classes of Old New York, and Newland Archer's impossible love for the disgraced Countess Olenska, is a perfectly wrought book about an era when upper-class culture in this country was still a mixture of American and European extracts, and when "society" had rules as rigid as any in history.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:59 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Newland Archer begins to question the values of high society in Victorian New York when he finds himself torn between two very different women--his proper young fiancee and her exotic cousin.

» see all 21 descriptions

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