The Age of Innocence
Mythological Archetypes of May and Ellen in The Age of Innocence
Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence lends itself as a work of social criticism against the tyrannous ideals of Old New York society through the experiences of Newland Archer and his torn love between two women. Wharton's plot, set in the late nineteenth century, depicts the story of a young handsome attorney named Newland Archer who finds himself engaged to the lovely May Welland, yet hopelessly in love with the intellectual Countess Ellen Olenska. Newland's love struggles between May's passionate innocence and Ellen Olenska's engaging intellect. Many times throughout the novel Wharton acknowledges the parallelism of the characters of May and Ellen to Classical mythology. Women at the turn of the nineteenth century were supposed to act according to society's conventions, but Wharton depicts each female character as a Roman or Greek goddess in order to empower May and Ellen in a society where they could never have exercised power otherwise. Throughout The Age of Innocence Edith Wharton uses mythological characters as archetypes of May and Ellen to express her views on the repression of women in the late nineteenth century.
Edith Wharton uses the Roman Goddess Diana to characterize the attractive May...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 849 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 6403 literature essays, 1757 sample college application essays, 259 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in