Cliques/Groups, Scapegoats, and Exclusion: the High Society of New York in the Age of Innocence

Topics: The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton, New York City Pages: 4 (1383 words) Published: December 14, 2007
In the current time, there are all kinds of groups/cliques. There are: the jocks, the nerds, and the goths in high school, and the upper class, the middle class, and the poor in society. Each of these groups has their own set of customs/rules that are followed. None of these rules are written. They are just understood. If an outsider comes to a clique and doesn't follow their rules, the group excludes them. If a member of a clique does something wrong, then the clique uses that person as a scapegoat "in order to alleviate dissension and restore harmony within its ranks".(Girard 365) The same things happen in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. The high society of New York, a.k.a. the New York 400, selects certain members of the society to use as scapegoats. One such scapegoat is Beaufort. The New York 400 also chooses people to exclude completely from ever joining their ranks such as Ellen Olenska and the Struthers. They gain a sense of power from people wanting to join their ‘elite' and ‘prestigious' group, which is made even more ‘elite' and ‘prestigious' by excluding the people wanting to join. The members of the New York 400 think they are superior to others and don't even want to deal with those people deemed unworthy by them. An Example of this is May's unwillingness to have M. Riviere to dinner even though Archer wants him to come. She makes the comment that he is just common.(123-124)

Beaufort was never really accepted by the New York 400. Beaufort was an Englishman. He came to America on the recommendation of Manson Mingott's Ebnglish son-in-law. He wasn't much liked for his traits: "his habits were dissipated, his tongue was bitter, his antecedents were mysterious . . ."(13). The only reason the New York 400 even put up with him is because of his marriage to Regina Dallas, who had a "Droit de cite," or "the right of the city".(13) He also had "the most distinguished house in New York," and it became an tradition to attend the...
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