Friday, August 9, 2019

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton reviewed by Nina Soukhanovskii

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. 

A Quote to Consider:
“With a shiver of foreboding he saw his marriage becoming what most of the other marriages about him were: a dull association of material and social interests held together by ignorance on the one side and hypocrisy on the other.”
Meet the Main Characters:
Newland Archer: He is a young lawyer who marries May Welland. He tells herself that he is in love with her, but he ends up falling in love with the Countess Olenska instead. Throughout the novel, he is faced with the dilemma of staying faithful to wife or following his heart.
May Welland: She is a beautiful young girl who gets married to Newland Archer. In the novel, she is portrayed as innocent and clueless. She is what society wants her to be because she has been raised knowing that her sole purpose is to get married and then stay in her husband’s shadow. She has no personality of her own. 
Countess Ellen Olenska: She is May’s cousin, raised in Europe and married to a Polish count. She comes to America in hopes of escaping a life that she does not want to live. She is the complete opposite of May because she is portrayed as independent and lively. Like a free spirit, she turns a blind eye towards society and chooses her own path in life (seen when she leaves her husband behind).
In the beginning of the novel, when the readers meet Newland, he is engaged to May and is perfectly happy with the outcome of his life up until that point. He insists on the fact that he is in love with May and that she is everything that she should be. The readers see that he is very happy with his decision to marry May and that his life seems to be running smoothly. 
However, when Newland meets May’s cousin, Ellen, he begins to doubt whether he made the right choice. All of a sudden, he finds himself comparing May to Ellen as he realizes that he is, in fact, in love with Ellen for her personality and not May. 
May, however, is not as ignorant as she seems. She notices the tension, and questions whether or not there is another woman in Newland’s life. Although she does not directly ask about his relationship with Ellen, she definitely suspects something. Newland, his heart belonging to Ellen but his mind to May, presses May until she agrees to wed sooner. 
And so, Newland’s life is set. As much as he wishes he could just forget about Ellen, she seems to come up every now and then, making him desperately wish for the colorful marriage that could have been. Instead, his life with May is dull and boring. Although he does not despise her, whatever he once felt for May is gone. His marriage is just like all of the other marriages, loveless. 
But the novel is not over just yet. There is still more to figure out as Newland, May, and Ellen each explore their own opportunities to live their life to the fullest. Will Newland give up on his quest to keep both women in his life? Will Ellen return to Europe, back to the life she once ran away from? Will May step in between the two?
Read the novel to find out!
My Thoughts & Rating:
Overall, I would give this novel 4 out of 5 stars. The plot had a lot of intriguing turns that I didn’t expect, and the character were developed and described very well. The novel does have a few slow parts towards the middle because Newland has a lot of time to himself to think, but it picks up by the end. Don’t give up on this novel half-way, it’ll be worth it in the long run. I would recommend this book to all readers, though I think readers who enjoy the genre of classical literature would enjoy this book the most.  

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