Henry James And Edith Wharton's The Age Of Innocence

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Settling in the same place in the world makes you get used to the cultural and social implications that are expected from you. However, once people touch upon different countries, they see that etiquette changes from person to person, let alone by crossing the Atlantic. For some people, it could be seen as scandalous to perform not according the country’s etiquette and social norms, but there are some who are more open minded about the idea of social norms. In this essay, I am going to discuss this notion that different authors such as Henry James and Edith Wharton faced by crossing the Atlantic; the different social norms that vary from place to place and the rebellion against having particular social norms, especially when it comes to women. This is not a new topic, as even Shakespeare argued that there is nothing such as proper etiquette or way of acting with his character Hamlet when he says…show more content…
Newland Archer, the novel’s protagonist, ends up loving the woman who breaks social norms while losing his love for May who has grown into the shape “into which tradition and training had moulded her”. The leisure-class is put under the magnifying glass by Wharton and she discusses the virtues and vices of each. Most notably, the flaws of their social norms that constricted Archer from showing his love towards Ellen are emphasised as he instead settles for May. Wharton provokes pity from the reader regarding the fact that Archer did not end up with his real love due to these constraints. Once meeting with a different set of norms and not being mechanically implied to fall in love, Archer finds his love in another person who does not follow the norms and is more free as a
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