The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence Cover

The Age of Innocence

By Edith Wharton; Stephen Orgel (Editor)

Oxford University Press, USA, Paperback, 9780199540013, 265pp.

Publication Date: December 15, 2008

Description
The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton's most famous novel, is a love story, written immediately after the end of the First World War. Its brilliant anatomization of the snobbery and hypocrisy of the wealthy elite of New York society in the 1870s made it an instant classic, and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921. Newland Archer, Wharton's protagonist, charming, tactful, enlightened, is a thorough product of this society; he accepts its standards and abides by its rules but he also recognizes its limitations. His engagement to the impeccable May Welland assures him of a safe and conventional future, until the arrival of May's cousin Ellen Olenska. Independent, free-thinking, scandalously separated from her husband, Ellen forces Archer to question the values and assumptions of his narrow world. As their love for each other grows, Archer has to decide where his ultimate loyalty lies.
Stephen Orgel's introduction and notes set the novel in the context of the period and discusses Wharton's skilfull weaving of characters and plot, her anthropological exactitude, and the novel's autobiographical overtones.
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About the Author
Edith Wharton was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, known for such classics as The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, and The Age of Innocence, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921. A member of the New York elite, Wharton drew on her experiences as part of society to critique its inner workings and the conflict between personal desires and societal norms. Wharton died in 1937, leaving behind a rich literary legacy.

Stephen Orgel is Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Humanities at Stanford University.