Double Standards In The Age Of Innocence By Edith Wharton

600 Words3 Pages
Throughout the plotline in the novel The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Wharton uses symbolism to depict double standards between men and women in New York society in the late 1800s. Wharton illustrates three characters in particular: Newland Archer, May Welland, and Ellen Olenska, to depict gender roles among society in this time period. The protagonist, Newland Archer, was Edith Wharton’s symbol to portray a prime example of the male dominance and expectations throughout New York society, in this time period. “Newland Archer, as became a young man of his position, strolled in somewhat late…” (Wharton 13). Wharton not only shows Newland’s dominance, but also shows how in society men had leisure in their time. Men, such as Archer, showed…show more content…
Ellen Olenska is, in essence, the complete opposite of what women were expected to be. Wharton chose to challenge those standards with Ellen in particular. Wharton created Ellen Olenska to show the reader that society’s double standards could be challenged. For example, it was forbidden for women to leave their husband, but Ellen Olenska left Count Olenska in Europe and moved to New York. Ellen was seen as striking towards the public upon her arrival, showing more skin than appropriate in New York for women at this time. Ellen Olenska’s etiquette was also questionable. “It was not the custom in New York drawing-rooms for a lady to get up and walk away from one gentleman in order to seek the company of another…” (Wharton 40). In this particular time period, women are expected to stay seated while waiting for men to approach them for a conversation. The reader can see that women were not seen as much more than simple entertainment in society. Women could not act on their own desires. Wharton uses this particular scene to show Ellen Olenska does not adhere to society’s strict codes, which triggers the reader to notice Ellen’s etiquette was similar to how a man would act. This is one of the first glimpses the reader sees of Ellen’s
Open Document