Some believe that The Age of Innocence was one of Wharton's best pieces of literature. If people disagreed that it was her best novel, they certainly couldn't disagree that it was Wharton's most famous novel. Many believe that much of Wharton's own life came through in her work. "Ms. Wharton often employed dichotomy in her own life: her role as socialite and author, woman of old New York and European maverick, and her life as spouse or beloved. Compartmentalizing her life’s roles prevented her from having to compromise the distinct qualities of each paradigm. Similarly, in The Age of Innocence, Ellen and May are completely opposite representations of life and culture in the 1870’s who cannot happily coexist together. Wharton draws this contrast by painting their psychological landscapes, relying heavily on the motifs of water and fire, elements that if combined are mutually destructive." 
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