Sunday, March 27, 2011
The Age of Innocence
In my early years, I thought love affairs outside of marriage the worst of evils to inflict upon another; in my late teens and early twenties, I found forbidden love tragically romantic. Now I simply find it irresponsible and immature, and definitely one of the most hurtful of betrayals one can inflict upon his or her significant other. Of course, all relationships and circumstances are different, but in this case, May is portrayed as beyond reproach, even if completely unoriginal in thought, attitude, and action. Perhaps Newland and Ellen were better suited temperamentally, if only she hadn't been married before, and he weren't betrothed to her cousin.
The novel ended perfectly, though, in my opinion. I most enjoyed Wharton's observations about New York society, many of which still ring true today, although some of the conventions, such as a businessman having to be honest above all else, seem to have fallen away long ago. Newland also seemed to believe that "women should be as free as men," and that the strict rules of society mostly resembled those of a prison. However, his "attempts" to break free were both few and inadequate. Ultimately, his life's course was subtly and profoundly directed by the women in his life, who seemed to manage to make all the decisions about the flow of society in the background without the men ever becoming completely conscious of it.