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The Age Of Innocence: A Time Left Behind

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In Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence we are taken back to an era of the wealthy New York elite. The elite and rich were the people who ran the city, the people who decided what was wrong and what was right, and if you were not a wealthy and known person in New York City, then you were nobody. Only the richest and most elite were allowed to be apart of the close nit society in which these people lived. Attending operas and balls that were thrown by some of the most well known citizens were only a couple of perks to being apart of this circle. The New York we know today has changed, but some of the virtues of the powerful are still seen these days. We see a good deal of hypocrisy in the novel that relates to the people and how they feel about each other. They say one thing and do another behind one and others back. We often see this in everyday life as we know it, even nowadays.

The power and influence one had on society mostly depended on the amount of wealth that they had acquired and the family ties that they had; the more funds and family history you had, the more influence you could induce onto others. The Van der Luydens are a great example of this they were the official last word on most decisions that were to be made that influenced the families.


"But instantly she became aware of her mistake. The Van der Luydens

were morbidly sensitive to any criticism to their secluded existence.

They were the arbiters of fashion, the court of last appeal, and they knew it and bowed to their fate" (48).

This shows the kind of influence that one family had on the others even if that family only consisted of two elderly people.

"Before taking him down to Maryland we are inviting a few friends to

meet him here-only a little reception afterward. I am sure Louisa will be

as glad as I am if Countess Olenska will let us include her among our

guests" (49).

The Countess Olenska was looked down upon by many people and not considered to be an upstanding person in the New York society; however by being invited to the get together that was to be hosted by the Van der Luydens was and indication that she had the support of a very powerful family, which put pressure on the other families to accept her presence in their elite faction. Later on in the novel Ellen is once again the center of attention, but not for a good reason, many people believed she had an affair behind her husbands back which led more people to criticize her, including many men who had affairs themselves.

"Newland reddened. "Living together?" Well, why not? Who had the right to make her life over if she hadn't? I'm sick and tired of the hypocrisy


that would bury alive a woman of her age if her husband

prefers to live with harlots" (36).

This refers to Ellen Olenska's husband who accuses her of seeing someone outside of their marriage while he is actually the one who is having an affair with what seems to be many women and maybe even having relationships with men. Newland plays a vital role in the hypocrisy of the novel. The whole time he is shunning Lefferts for what he is doing, always running around with other women other than his wife, while the whole time Archer is lusting towards Ellen Olenska and



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