I just finished Edith Wharton’s novel, The Age of Innocence, and there are a great many good things about this novel and there are some sad things about this novel as well. The best side about this novel is that you get a clear picture of New York Society in the 1870’s while get a clear picture of the social norms and customs. While also reading this novel based on the social norms we also get the clear picture as to why Newland Archer feels torn at times between May, who is his wife, and Countess Ellen Olenska, who is May’s cousin and the one that Archer cannot truly leave May for Ellen. However, while reading this novel you really want to Archer to leave plain May and go for the Countess, even though, she is married and has left her husband the count.
Even though Ellen and Archer have their moments together and you get the true sense that they want to be together and Ellen is the one to stop it on numerous occasions it was just not meant to be. Therefore, this is where we come to the true sadness of the novel in that this is the one case in a romance novel where neither one gets what they truly want. Archer is alone and May has died, and Ellen is alone, which in a way is what she wanted. But in the end, the romance between these two always showed that they could never be together as Archer wanted for he loved May too much and Ellen having been not only a cousin to Ellen but also a friend, Ellen could not bring herself to hurt May.
I enjoyed this book, but at the same time, you just feel that you are burden down with all about learning about the society and what they felt should be the best course of action by the family for Ellen. While at the same time Archer had to deal with trying to help her get out of what the family wanted for her even if it meant that he could not have what he wanted, which was Ellen.