Comparison Between May Welland And Ellen Olenska

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The male protagonist Newland Archer has conflicting desires for May Welland and Ellen Olenska. His view on both changes throughout the novel a few times. May and Ellen both have influence on his decisions and behavior, this influence varies in degree over time.

Newland Archer regards May Welland as the perfect future wife and is satisfied with his choice. At the beginning of the novel Newland considers May to be a respectable girl, which he should marry to live a respectable live. She is traditional and innocent with a pleasing character, she is the perfect New Yorker girl to marry in society's eyes. Newland loves her and everything about her and he is sure, that she will never disappoint him. At this point May does not have a opinion for
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Ellen seems to be the perfect wife for him, because she has everything he wants a wife to have. She is the independent woman with her own thoughts and opinions separate from society's. She has the “heedless generosity and the spasmodic extravagance of persons used to large fortunes” (Wharton, 1920: 250), but could go without many things her relatives couldn't. She is like no other woman due to her not being raised in New York society and therefore not being shaped by training and tradition in her youth. Furthermore she generates the feeling of jealousy in him by being out with Beaufort, although he is not in the position to have those feelings. Additionally he has a strong urge to protect her and even argues against the opinions of her family. Only when he realizes, that a divorce would possibly cause harm for her, he stops encouraging the idea. Newland's fascination of Ellen might be produced by his aversion of society and because Ellen is and behaves contrary to society, he thinks that they will be perfect for each other. She is the reason for his conflicting desires and his urge to speed up the engagement process. When he realizes he loves Ellen and confesses his love to her and his desire to marry her instead of May, it is too late. During his marriage to May he repeatedly tries to visit Ellen and to convince her to start an affair with him. Ellen however might not be concerned about society's opinion on her, but she is concerned about other people's feelings and she does not want to be the reason for their suffering. Newland claims to like her kindness on the other side he does not understand her reasoning against the affair. After his wedding he tries to make the thought of ever marrying Ellen unthinkable. She remains “in his memory simply as the most
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