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Book Cover for: The Age of Innocence (Annotated), Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence (Annotated)

Edith Wharton

"The Age of Innocence," written by Edith Wharton and published in 1920, is a captivating exploration of love, duty, and societal expectations in the Gilded Age of New York City. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel transports readers to a world of opulent mansions, lavish soirées, and intricately woven social codes, all meticulously detailed by Wharton's keen observational skills.


The novel introduces us to Newland Archer, a young and affluent lawyer engaged to the beautiful but conventional May Welland. As the heir to an esteemed New York family, Newland is entrenched in the traditions and expectations of high society. However, the arrival of May's unconventional cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, disrupts the well-ordered world Newland has known.


Ellen, having fled a troubled marriage in Europe, represents a breath of fresh air in a society stifled by its own rigidity. Her allure lies not only in her beauty but in her defiance of societal norms, sparking a sense of forbidden desire in Newland. The novel unfolds as Newland grapples with his growing infatuation for Ellen while navigating the intricate web of social obligations and familial expectations that bind him.


Wharton's narrative is a rich tapestry of societal critique, drawing attention to the constraints imposed by the "innocence" of an era that masks the underlying complexities of human relationships. The characters are meticulously crafted, each contributing to the unfolding drama of love and duty. May Welland, seemingly docile and compliant, reveals hidden depths as the story progresses, adding layers to the exploration of societal expectations.

One of the novel's strengths lies in its vivid portrayal of the societal customs and rituals of the time. Wharton meticulously describes the elaborate balls, the intricacies of dress codes, and the unspoken rules that govern interactions. This attention to detail creates a world that is both visually sumptuous and intellectually engaging, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the lavish tapestry of Gilded Age New York.


The novel's title, "The Age of Innocence," is both ironic and poignant. On the surface, the term implies a certain purity and naivety, but Wharton uses it to expose the hypocrisy and moral complexity that lies beneath the veneer of innocence. The characters grapple with the tension between societal expectations and personal desires, challenging the notion of true innocence in matters of the heart.


As the story unfolds, Wharton masterfully builds suspense, creating a narrative that is both timeless and timely. The novel's exploration of forbidden love, societal constraints, and the consequences of choice resonates across eras, inviting readers to reflect on their own relationships and the societal expectations that shape them.


"The Age of Innocence" stands as a timeless classic, a literary gem that continues to captivate readers with its exquisite prose, nuanced characters, and profound exploration of the human condition. Edith Wharton's masterful storytelling invites us to peer behind the curtain of societal conventions and question the true cost of conformity in matters of love and duty. Through the lens of Gilded Age New York, Wharton provides a mirror reflecting the perennial struggle between individual desires and the expectations of a society clinging to its own notion of innocence.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Jason Nollan
  • Publish Date: Jan 18th, 2024
  • Pages: 290
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 9.00in - 6.00in - 0.65in - 0.94lb
  • EAN: 9782386370229
  • Categories: ClassicsAction & AdventureLiterary
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