The Social Subject in the Age of Innocence.

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The Age of Innocence major theme is based around a battle of the individual’s desire and the monotonous life, rules and duties that control New York during the eighteen seventies. The conflict is between freedom and society. It was a society “intent on maintaining its own rigid stability”. Each man and woman had its own duties and people were forced to maintain this social code that existed, even if they wanted to put their happiness into their own hands. Big decisions were made by group choice not by the individual. This is evident through the protagonist Newland Archer who has doubts and changes with his life upon meeting Ellen Olenska. The protagonist in Ethan Frome can be compared to Archer by the way they both have difficulty with their desires and duties particularly through love and freedom. Archer realises New York is suffocating him from achieving his desires. I will discuss throughout how he conflicts with his desires and duties throughout along with other characters and compare them to Ethan Fromes decisions also. The setting of The Age of Independence is eighteen seventies New York. The Cambridge Online Collections state that Edith Wharton wanted to get the “1870s right - the moustaches (”not tooth brush ones, but curved & slightly twisted at the ends”), the clothes and the buttonhole flowers (violets by day, gardenias by night), the manners and the language (no slang, no Americanisms - “English was then the language spoken by American ladies & gentlemen”). Since she had insisted that she did not want the novel taken as a “costume piece” (Letters, 433), this punctiliousness might seem surprising. But in The Age of Innocence, social details matter.” The setting alone plays a huge part in Archer achieving his desires. New York is conformed during this period people are expected to follow the social codes that are implemented. This puts a hold on Archer and Ellen’s desires to be with one another. New York has a hold on their feelings. They cannot...
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