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The Age of Innocence

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The truth that lies behind fantasies

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is a book that gave the word "love" many other meanings, such as impossible, meaningless and incomplete. There were many unbearable obstacles that Countess Ellen Olenska, one of the main characters, had to face because of love. She was treated badly by many people and always longed for love but never obtained it. With everyone cursing her, betraying her and hurting her, there was one person who was always there for her. Newland Archer wasn't only sympathetic towards her; he also began to fall in love with her. The love she always wanted. He was the man who truly cared for her and always helped her make decisions. Out of all the selfish people in New York who degraded her, including her very close relatives, Newland Archer was one person who was there to listen to her problems and helped her solve them.

Countess Olenska had to face many difficulties in her life. After having problems with her husband, Count Olenski, she left her home in Europe and lived with her grandmother, Mrs. Mingott. When she came to New York, Newland Archer was the only one who was there for her and listened to her problems. Furthermore, when she wanted to get a divorce Newland Archer, being a lawyer, talked to her about it and made her change her mind. He fell in love with her, knowing he was engaged to her cousin, and supported her. If he wanted, he could have forced her into getting a divorce and get married to her without caring about the society, but he chose not to do that. In chapter 12 he states, "Think of the newspapers-their vileness! It's all stupid and narrow and unjust but one can't make over society (p.99)." This shows how much he cares for her and her reputation in the society. He knows what people talk about her and does not want her reputation to go lower than it is. He sympathizes with her and makes her change her mind about getting a divorce. He goes on saying, "It's my business, you know, to help you to see these things as the people who are fondest of you see them...if I didn't show you honestly how they judge such questions, it wouldn't be fair of me, would it? (p. 100)." He indirectly tells her that he does not want to be like other people who talk about her and think of her as a bad influence on their society. When he says "it's my business..." he shows his concern for her and, in his own unique way, tells her that her problems are his. Newland Archer, without caring about the society, takes the lead and helps Ellen Olenska to see what is unclear to her eyes.

Secondly, Newland Archer was always there for Ellen when she needed someone the most and Ellen always told him her secrets. For example, when she got tired of being oppressed by the society, she went away to Skuytercliff without telling anyone. A day or two later, she sent a note to Newland Archer telling him where she was and also said that she wishes he was there with her and the van der Lyudens. As soon as he got the note, he left for Skuytercliff and was anxious to know why she left so suddenly. When she saw him she was very happy and said, "I knew you'd come! (p. 117)" and he replied, "That shows you wanted me to (p.117)."



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