The Van Der Luydens: Epitome of High Class

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The Van Der Luydens: Epitome of High Class

In the Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, there are many characters that represent old New York society. It was one of many rules and in itself had a built in hierarchy. At the top of this group were Mr. and Mrs. Henry Van Der Luyden. Their appearances are rare, which in most novels leaves the reader without a clear understanding of the character, but in this case more than enough information is provided to show that they were the crème de la crème of high class New Yorkers. At the end of chapter six, the narrator describes the hierarchy of Old New York. The last family Wharton talks about is the Van Der Luydens. She writes, "…the Van Der Luydens…stood above all of them.” Wharton explicitly tells us that they were at the top of the social ladder in high society. Just previous to this, we are told that they descended from both British and French aristocracy, supporting the fact that the van der Luydens were the most revered family. Next the author makes it known to readers that "[Mrs.] and Mr. van der Luyden were so exactly alike… neither had ever reached a decision without prefacing it by [a] mysterious conclave,” this conclave being, "I shall first have to talk this over with my husband/wife." The Van Der Luydens cannot be characterized separately because they were exactly alike and, consulted each other before making decisions. Wharton tells us these facts about the Van Der Luydens because she wants us to understand the reactions from other characters when they interact. One instance is when Archer and Mrs. Mingott sought the advice of the couple. This scene demonstrates the dominance the Van Der Luydens had. Archer and Mrs. Mingott went to ask them what to do because they were the experts of proper behavior. Archer then proceeded to tell his narrative of how Ellen is being advised by her family not to divorce. Once Archer finished speaking, "Mrs. Van Der Luyden glanced at her husband, who glanced back at her.”...
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