- Series: Tor Classics
- Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Tor Classics; Unabridged edition (March 15, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812567102
- ISBN-13: 978-0812567106
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (579 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,861,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Age of Innocence (Tor Classics) Unabridged Edition
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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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Editor's Introduction by Carol J. Singley A Note on the Text I. The Age of Innocence II. Background Readings Questions of Culture Thomas Bender, from "The Metropolitan Gentry: Culture against Politics" George Sanyayana, from "The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy" Walt Whitman, from "Democratic Vistas" Calvin Tomkins, from "Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of the Metropolitan Museum of Art" Ida Van Gastel, "The Location and Decoration of Houses in The Age of Innocence" Marriage and Divorce Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg, from Domestic Revolutions J. Foote Bingham, from "For the Wedding Night" Travel and Sport Donald Ross and James J. Schramer, from the Introduction to American Travel Writers, 1850-1915 Henry James, from "Americans Abroad" Henry James, from "Newport" William J. Baker, from "The Lawn Set" III. Other Writings by Edith Wharton Writing The Age of Innocence The Ways of Old New York The Childishness of American Women "The Valley of Childish Things" Winning the Pulitizer Prize IV. Critical Readings Alan Price, from "The Composition of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence" Elizabeth Ammons, from "Cool Diana and the Blood-Red Muse: Edith Wharton on Innocence and Art" Judith P. Saunders, from "Becoming the Mask: Edith Wharton's Ingenues" Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, from "Angel of Devastation: Edith Wharton on the Arts of the Enslaved" Katherine Joslin, from "The Age of Innocence and the Bohemian Peril" James W. Tuttleton, from "Edith Wharton: The Archeological Motive" Nancy Bentley, from "'Hunting for the Real': Wharton and the Science of Manners" Linda W. Wagner, from "A Note on Wharton's Use of Faust" Gary H. Lindberg, from "The Mind in Chains: Public Plots and Personal Fables" Donald Pizer, from "American Naturalism in Its 'Perfected' State: The Age of Innocence and An American Tragedy Ian Christie, from "The Scorsese Interview: On Filming The Age of Innocence" Gore Vidal, "Of Writers and Class: In Praise of Edith Wharton" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
can see it really come to life... Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors that make that time frame and New York customs
come to life... If you are considering buying do not hesitate... It is such a great read and a great classic.
Newland is the lead character, a man torn between the old and new, the conservative and the progressive. These are represented in the two women in his life. He marries May as society and family expects. All the while he pines for Countess Ellen Olenska, May's exotic cousin. Newland soon finds that his beautiful wife lacks imagination and adventure. She becomes tedious to Newland to the point that he fears "his tendency to dwell on the things he disliked in her."
Yet, he stays faithful and tries to communicate with May as to his needs and wants. She humors his dreams and he pushes back, "But why should they be only descriptions? Why shouldn't we make them real?" In the end, May cannot see a life or way of life outside of the circle she is most comfortable.
This makes Ellen even more desirable to Newland. She is unconventional and alluring seemingly born a generation before her time. He continuously warns Ellen of how complex New York society is and she retorts, "Is New York such a labyrinth?" Ellen believes it is quite predictable likening the upper crust to the city's street grid system.
Wharton provides great observations of human behavior that resonate today. Early in the novel she says that livery drivers recognized "that Americans want to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it." She was referring to opera but if you have seen fans leaving a National Hockey League game you know of what she writes.
The author possesses a biting sense of humor that is best exhibited in the descriptions of life in New York. The novel is set when it "was peculiar to live above Thirty-Fourth Street" and when attending a party "hot canvas-back ducks and vintage wines" were preferred over "tepid Veuve Clicquot without a year and warmed-up croquettes from Philadelphia." Descriptions of people's homes along Madison Avenue are incredible. One possesses a ballroom used just one day a year.
Wharton ends the novel beautifully by fast-forwarding through the years. Newland observes how liberal society has become for his grown children. He has lived long enough to see innovations including long-distance telephone calls, electric light and five-day voyages across the Atlantic. He too has been born a generation too early and upon reflection laments, "The worst of doing one's duty was that it apparently unfitted one for doing anything else."
A thoroughly deserved win for this brilliantly conceived look at the late eighteen hundreds in New York.
Newland Archer, a young New York Lawyer is about to wed May Welland when his structured and preconceived ideas of life is thrown into disarray by the reappearance of the Countess Olenska into New York society.
Newland Archer is a member of the New York establishment; but upon his meeting with Ellen Olenska (May's cousin) he is forced to take a good look at his own safe, desirable,and comfortable life and sees for perhaps the first time, this regimented and utterly suffocating routine may not be what he really wants.
Ellen Olenska has fled Europe and her husband,the vile Count Olenska after years living a much freer and sophisticated life, which is frowned upon by the "good" families of New York.
She is eventually "accepted" by her family and others in that rigid group of people, BUT there ARE conditions.
Ellen tries to, and indeed succeeds in "fitting in" but she remains her own free spirit.
Archer, admires this in her, and eventually falls in love with Ellen, and Ellen with Archer. But she is reluctant to enter into a clandestine relationship with Archer warning him, "it is a miserable country."
As we read on, in this fascinating character study, we are wondering whether Archer will leave his (now) wife,with his embedded sense of "duty", but growing resentment of the situation he feels "stuck" with...or will he throw all caution to the wind and follow his dreams to be with Ellen?
I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for top class literature, and an engrossing story that perhaps many of us, who have lived a life can relate to in some way.
Update: It's been a while since I read this book. And originally did not think too highly of it, but after months and months of thinking about it, I realized that it isn't just about "rich people and their rich people problems" (lol). First of all, I thought about this book long after I read it, which made me believe that it must have left some kind of impression on me. My interpretation has changed over time. I feel like it focuses on the way people act and think based off societal influences. I found that I liked the Countess Olenska so much not only because of her modern way of thinking, which was considered taboo for everyone else, but because she is so independent and caring for those around her. I don't really want to get into too much detail because of spoilers, but this story did leave me thinking about it long after I had finished it and moved on to other books. I actually think it's a bit of a sad story after seeing the characters struggle so much. I want to read it again to see what else I can interpret from it, but it's hard to get away from my own historical perspective to try to understand the characters more. It was a very interesting book.