Character Analysis of Ellen the Countess Olenska in the Age of Innocence

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Ellen, the Countess Olenska is the character is chose to analyze. She fulfills Newland’s longing for an emotional fantasy life. Her words, her unconventional taste in clothing and interior decorating, and her attitudes symbolize the exotic to traditional Newland. She makes him question his narrow existence and brings out his protective instincts. Where May is ice, Ellen is fire. Ellen’s elegance and style would be at home in Europe, but seem passionate in New York City. Emotionally, she is the opposite of May Archer. Often she causes Newland to question why everyone must be and act exactly alike. Her tolerance for the ways of society shows her compassion, a trait that is unappreciated by New Yorkers. This makes it possible for May to use Ellen’s softness to her advantage because she knows that Ellen will never run away with Newland when May reveals her possible pregnancy. Ellen’s lack of concern for social rules make her a target of people’s attention, but a heroine of the ones that are outcasts as she often felt. Unlike the inane society wives, she has a mind of her own and uses it well and with concern for others. This is bad for her because New York society has a difficult time understanding single women living apart from their husbands, and her lifestyle makes her family, as well as their social class, nervous. Ellen falls in love with Newland, but she is a realist. She asks him all the time if anyone in that society liked to hear the truth, as she notices the narrow minds of the people in the society she’s in. Ellen knows that they cannot live a life outside of the norm without hurting others. She reminds Newland that social, religious, and class standards must be obeyed. If she had an affair with him means no honor, no principles, and no happiness. She explains to him that she can’t love him unless she gives him up. She is unselfish in doing exactly that. She realizes they are supposedly destined to be together and she leaves because an unusual life cannot...
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