The Age of Innocence

Finding Reality in Age of Innocence 12th Grade

Newland Archer is not only a well-read intellect, but an introspective thinker who deeply considers his own life. One concept that Newland consistently struggles with is his understanding of “reality”, and a major journey exposed through Wharton’s narrative is Newland’s changing relationship with what he perceives as real and tangible versus imagined fantasy. Newland begins his journey believing that the esteemed New York Society in which he has been raised is fake and materialistic, and that his true “reality” lies somewhere else beyond the constraints of his small community. He lives a predictable life marked by spasmodic glimpses into the “real” life he dreams of. These daydreams, however, consistently end with startling instances of Newland being reminded of the society that surrounds him. The pivotal shift in Archer’s mentality occurs at Ellen Olenska’s parting dinner, when he finally realizes that his “unreal” New York “clan” is actually his reality, and any life beyond it is merely an unattainable fantasy. This moment marks the figurative “death” of Newland’s fantasies, Wharton’s way of delivering the message that realism trumps romanticism.

From the opening scene of Age of Innocence, Wharton paints a fake,...

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