The main character, Newland Archer, is a wealthy lawyer who is engaged to May Welland. All seems well, until Newland meets May's cousin Countess Ellen Olesnka, who has left Europe to get away from her husband. Newland is enlisted to make things right, avoiding any scandal, for May's family by getting Countess Olenska to go back to her husband, or simply swaying her to choose not to divorce. Newland falls in love with Countess Olesnka, but he is a man who is a product of his environment, and decides to forego what he wants for duty.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked how Edith Wharton presented a character who was intelligent, wealthy, handsome, and a victim. He chooses to do his duty, based on how he was raised. He wasn't not raised to run off with his fiance's cousin. The ending of the book, where you think he is finally free because May has died, and he chooses to still walk away from Countess Olenska, you realize that he will always be dutiful even if it is now just to a memory. He will always be the man he was raised to be, a man who walks away from what he wants.
Best scene in story:
I love the scene where he meets Countess Olenska at a party for the first time, and Newland mentions he loves May enough. Countess Olenska say, "Is there a limit?' in terms of love and that question opens Newland up to thinking about love differently.
Opinion about the main character:
My heart bleeds for Newland. He is who he is, but by being who he is he denies himself things that could truly make him happy. The ending when he walks away from Countess Olenska even when May has died, you think why? Then you think, he is a good man, and wonders if that is enough in life. You think he should be something more or something else.
A high society New Yorker falls for the practically disowned cousin of his fiancee. Though he refuses to allow her to divorce her husband and she insists that he marry his fiancee, they pursue a not-quite-platonic relationship. Also a commentary on 1870s New York upper class quirks.
This report prepared by Sarrah
In the rarefied world of 1870s upper-class New York society, young Newland Archer, who is engaged to the lovely and suitable May Welland, meets and falls in love with Countess Ellen Olenska -- May's "scandalous" cousin, fresh from Europe and seeking a divorce. On one level, this novel is the story of Archer and Ellen's intense, hopeless love affair, constrained by the social mores of old New York; on another, it is Edith Wharton's anthropological study of a vanished world, ruled by birth, class and honorable appearance, governed by surprisingly ancient tribal rituals and taboos. Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for 'The Age of Innocence' in 1921 - and it still wields immense power today.
This report prepared by Christine Hung