Edith WartonS

Edith Warton?S “The Age Of Innocence” Essay, Research Paper

The Age of Innocence The Stranger Within

#4 Discuss and analyze the character of Newland Archer.

In Edith Warton’s novel, The Age of Innocence the main character Newland Archer has a complex personality that is filled with hidden desires and ideas; some of these ideas are controversial in the society that he lives in. The arrival of Ellen Olenska and the harsh realization of living in a boring society help expose these unseen traits.

Newland Archer seemed like the typical wealthy New York bachelor. He took part in all of the proper etiquette that was expected of him. He made a limited number of visits to Europe, dined with the finest people, dated the prettiest girl and attended the newest operas. Underneath this exterior lived the heart of an adventurer, a radical. Inside Newland knew that the life he was required to lead was boring; he knew that the view his society had of women was oppressive. Newland rarely let these opinions out into the open, hiding them from the scrutinizing eyes of old New York.

On one occasion Newland threw caution to the wind and his radical thoughts became voice as he was talking with Mr. Sillerton Jackson. “Women ought to be free-as free as we are, he declared, making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure the terrific consequences. (41)” Ellen was the women Newland was referring to.

An outcast from society Ellen was looked down upon; everyone loathed her, except Newland; he saw the predicament that she was in. Newland liked her outlandish ways; he admired her love of art and her ability to be different from everyone else. Until Ellen arrived Newland did not realize how bored he was of the monotonous lifestyle he had been living. Newland thought to himself on an opera night, “The same faces, the same scene…the same familiar setting of giant roses and pen wiper pansies, the same large blonde victim was succumbing to the same small brown seducer. (320)” These feelings of boredom stemmed from Newland’s yearning to explore. He was like a tiger caged at the zoo. An instinct inside him made him want to run free, but the oppressive bars of society continually held him back.

Newland was much more emotional than the rest of his group he believed that a person should act on their feelings rather than on what they thought society would think. It took him a while to realize this but through his unfounded love these beliefs rose to the surface of his soul. At heart he was a hopeless romantic that would act on his emotional urges at the whim of his lover or the emotions he would feel. He spoke this proposal of running away to the countess Ellen, “Where we shall be simply two human beings who love each other, who are the whole of life to each other; and nothing else on earth will matter. (290)”

The boring gossip of old cronies where no use to amuse Newland. The wife Newland had chosen to be with soon put forth her true colors, a replica of everything he hated, had been formed into the shape of his newly designated wife. May lived and breathed proper New York. Conformity was all she cared about and Newland did not wish to conform, this caused his soul to yearn to be free with an even greater drive.

Everything that Ellen was Newland longed to be, free of caring about what people thought and what people said. On the outside he conformed to everything he was supposed to, but on the inside he was a rebel that had ideas far different than the rest of his social circle.


The Age of Innocence


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