Mortality and Immortality in the Age of Innocence

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It is evident that Newland Archer goes through a series of events that define his personality and from which we can deduct the truth. Archer finds redemption in his sons, love and pity coming from May.

The biggest constant motif of The Age of Innocence is mortality and immortality. When Wharton first describes the characters of New York Society, they are always conceived of as immortal in some way. By saying this meaning that she portrays them as being like the mythological Greek antiquity, or "god-like." She is often making it seem that the characters are not aging or are in some way defying death. When talking about Mrs. Beaufort, it seems that she is some type of immortal through the statement that she "grows younger and blonder and more beautiful each year". Newland seems to be like a Greek god, or hero in Wharton’s eyes. These families are like the gods of the New York pantheon. The mortals would be people like Ellen Olenska. These people age, have flaws, are alive, and are relatively left out of the scheme of the great New York Society.

We find Newland Archer stuck in a position of loving two different women. He loves Ellen, yet, she is married, and he is engaged to May. Ellen also has this bad reputation and is in a sense one of the "mortals" or on the common folk side which makes it unacceptable for Newland to be with Ellen. He doubts very much his marriage with May. He looks around him and sees the deceit of the other marriages and is worried that his will be the same way. He fears that the two of them will always live in secret from one another. Time goes on and Ellen and Newland still have this connection for one another, yet are trapped into situations which they do not want to be in.

Newland doesn't want to get married with May because he senses that she is tremendously influenced by the New York society in the way she thinks. He thinks of her a “daughter of society”, always putting forth her best manners and showing respect to the rituals of...
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