The Age of Innocence

Why Newland Walks Away

It has been said that the true power of beauty is felt most deeply by those who have caught but a glimpse of its potential; those able to see its ethereal quality without demanding more. Perhaps, some have said, the fragility of aesthetic beauty can be stronger in human imagination than in reality. Between Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska from The Age of Innocence, there is a passion beyond the descriptive capacity of words; it is an exquisite relationship that seems incapable of existence in the realm of mere mortals - a connection of two souls. Unfortunately, these souls dwell in bodies bound to the earthly realm, and therefore must abide by societal rules. The theme of impossible love will be explored in the four stages of the relational evolution between Newland and Ellen: the initial spark that results from the conflict between Newland’s idealistic naivete and the reality of 17th century New York society embodied in the character of Ellen, the implications of its passionate yet non-consummated nature, its fundamental reliance on sacrifice, and finally, the destiny of the relationship to stay in the ideal realm, never to be truly realized.

In keeping with her realistic style of writing, Edith Wharton creates a sympathetic...

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