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“The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton Journal Essay


The struggle between the individual and the society is one of the main themes in The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. During the whole discussion, the author tries to create a contradiction between one person and the society from different angles. Still, there is one peculiar aspect that should be pointed at.

Medora Manson, Agathon Carver, Emerson Sillerton, and Ned Winsett are the bohemian characters who make cameo appearances in the novel The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. The main idea of such appearances is to show the differences in the society.

The time discussed in the novel is characterized by the sharp differences between different countries, layers of population, etc. To show the difference between Europe and America the author inserts an aunt, Medora Manson, who took Ellen to Europe when she was a child. Being brought up in another country her return to America helps to see the difference in views.

Reading the novel, it is possible to notice that in most cases the similar class is shown. There is no lower class or the middle one. Still, the appearance of the journalist, Ned Winsett, who is from a different social circle, is important. This part in the novel helps a reader to get the whole situation in the society. Much attention is paid to discussion of one particular class of people who depict one social circle.

However, it is important to make sure that the reader understands the time which is considered and can see the whole picture (Bloom 169). The appearance of these several characters helps the reader to get the necessary information and draw appropriate conclusions.

These small scenes are the only ones which are created for making a contradiction between classes and people as the structures. In other cases a person is confronted to the whole society. Wharton’s representation of the demi-monde gives us a very partial vision of the city which ignores the very real existence of underclasses.

The author wanted to show the confrontation of people of one and the same class, to present the differences which exist in the society at one and the same level. The presence of the different classes could lead to misunderstanding of the theme in the novel. However, the author needed to present the time he depicts to make sure the reader can understand the whole picture.

The bohemian characters that make cameo appearances are important in this way. However, the main idea the author wanted to present is the problems which existed in one social circle.

The struggle of one person against the whole society is exactly what the problem is and the author of the text could underline this problem only by means of presenting only one society. The ignorance of the underclasses is intentional as those classes are not necessary in presenting the conflict the author depicts.

Reading the novel, it is possible to understand the great difference between American and European societies. American society is too conservative. People in that society cannot understand how it is possible to run away from a husband, how it is possible to have such a scandal reputation as Ellen Olenska has and still appear in the society, lead a normal life and express personal point of view, dissatisfaction with a husband and his decision.

The difference of the European and American societies may be seen through Ellen Olenska and May Welland. These two women are brought up in different societies and they have absolutely different modes of behavior. Ellen Olenska has decided to leave her husband and how has a love affair with another man, who has a wife.

If Ellen Olenska got to know that her husband has a lover should would leave without thinking of the consequences. However, May Welland a wife of that man acts absolutely different. Family is everything for her and she is ready to protect her family using all possible means.

Being aware of the husband’s betrayal, May Welland does not leave the country looking for protection, she does all possible to convince Ellen Olenska that she is pregnant and she is to leave. Then, when she understands that her husband is about to leave her, she says him about her pregnancy (Wharton 305). A man in that society cannot leave a woman with a child alone.

That is why, he stays. The difference in behavior, points of view and the consideration of life are obvious. American society reflected through the main characters May Welland and Newland Archer is confronted to the European one presented by Ellen Olenska and her husband Polish Count Olenski, a European nobleman. The difference in vision of the family is obvious.

Americans respect the institution of a family and do all possible to conserve their relationships, while Europeans do not treat family as something sacred. That is why they have problems, scandals, etc. The social, cultural and other differences may be followed through the relation to the family by the characters mentioned above.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2005. Print.

Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence. New York: Forgotten Books, 2010. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, April 9). “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton Journal. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-age-of-innocence-by-edith-wharton-journal/

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IvyPanda. 2019. "“The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton Journal." April 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-age-of-innocence-by-edith-wharton-journal/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) '“The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton Journal'. 9 April.

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