“One of the major conflicts of the novel is stability versus change. Where does Wharton use that?”
The Age of Innocence, a novel written by Edith Wharton is characterized by devotion and deception during the Golden Age of New York. According to the story, Newland Archer is equipped to marry the accustomed May Welland but in the meanwhile Countess Ellen Olenska, suffering inconsolable marriage came into his world making Archer passionately in love her. Commitment and passion are being portrayed in the whole novel. It is where Newland Archer will make his toughest decision whether he will relentlessly wreck his whole life.
Throughout the novel, mixtures of feeling were being shown by the existing societies of the late 1920s. This is where the conflict between stability versus change is undeviating revealed. The norm of being the old world is intensely devoted to lives of people living the upper-class society, particularly in New York. The novel expresses strong docility among the people making them grounded for a changed and keeps on pushing boundaries. The Age of Innocence novel authored by Edith Wharton mirrored her own struggle with the conflict of stability versus change. Her experienced during the American civil war clearly influenced the novel she wrote. She lived through that period knowing that depression will occur right after the end of World War II. So, it clearly represents that Wharton’s feelings are linked to those of the characters in the novel she wrote.
Newland Archer, the protagonist, is a clear symbol of stability versus change. His marriage with May Welland is considered stability and his secret relationship with Countess Ellen Olenska is considered the change. Being married to May Welland allows Newland to uphold his position in the society, hence granting stability towards the old money world. Despite, Ellen shows him what real love is. Even though Newland is having a perfect vision of what his relationship with Ellen, his feelings still played on him that he will not be able to come into terms on what Ellen believes to be a reality. Ellen seems to figure out to Newland that it’s better to look at realities and not at visions. This situation strongly implies that even though Ellen has her unconventional personality, she still knows where are the boundaries.
The relationship between Newland and Ellen Olenska caused controversy on the people living on the late 1920’s; it is between the European man and living in the bohemian side of town opposing to Fifth Avenue. This clearly shows that the geographical location can have an effect on stability versus change.
In conclusion, the conflict stability versus change is greatly emphasized in the novel, Age of Innocence. The whole novel expresses the stability and changes through the situation played by the characters. The story gives an absolute vision to the reader of what is the difference in standard of living in the old money world comparing to the new era. People at that time are so conservative making them scared to do of what things they love to do. They are so aware of what society thinks about them, in a way that they want to impress those people. So, as a human and we have the freedom we need to do things which we think are right leading satisfaction and fulfillment.
- Wharton, Edith. Age of Innocence. Barnes and Noble, 2004.
- “The Age of Innocence: Summary, Themes & Analysis”. Study, 2005,
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