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The Age of Innocence Analysis

The Age of Innocence Analysis

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Published by simplyhue
The Age of Innocence is a 1993 American film adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1920 novel of the same name, which is set amongst aristocrat New Yorkers in the 1870s.
The Age of Innocence is a 1993 American film adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1920 novel of the same name, which is set amongst aristocrat New Yorkers in the 1870s.

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Published by: simplyhue on Jul 03, 2012
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The Age I Don’t Want to Live In: The Age of Innocence
 Film Synopsis
The Age of Innocence is a 1993 American film adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1920 novelof the same name, which is set amongst aristocrat New Yorkers in the 1870s. The return of thebeautiful Countess Ellen Olenska into the rigidly conventional society of New York sendsreverberations throughout the upper reaches of society. Newland Archer, an eligible young manof the establishment is about to announce his engagement to May Welland, a pretty ingénue,when May's cousin, Countess Olenska, is introduced into their circle. The Countess brings withher an aura of European sophistication and a hint of scandal, having left her husband and claimedher independence. Her sorrowful eyes, her tragic worldliness and her air of unapproachabilityattract the sensitive Newland and, almost against their will, a passionate bond develops betweenthem. But Archer's life has no place for passion and, with society on the side of May and all shestands for, he finds himself drawn into a bitter conflict between love and duty.
Introduction
Before writing this review I decided to find out a bit more about Edith Wharton (since
she’s the author of the novel which the film was adapted from)
. If you turn to the Wikipedia page(not exactly hardcore research, I know but I'm not in a position to march off to the library andstart wading through Wharton's presumably numerous biographies) you'll be faced with a pictureof a timid and pretty dour looking lady with two disagreeable looking Paris-Hilton porta-dogsplunked on her knee.Don't let appearances fool you ladies and gentlemen, for Wharton was a regular socialand creative dynamo; designer, socialite, writer, Knight (Chevalier of the legion of honor for herwork in France during the war) there was no stopping this woman.So back to The Age of Innocence. What's it all about? Mostly about how being young,rich and desirable and mixing with the cream of society isn't all it is cracked up to be. Why?Well because high society is actually incredibly dull. In order to set themselves apart from thegrubby minions who do the dishes, drive the coaches and actually work for a living, "society" setabout creating a set of hideously constrictive rules and moral guidelines which sap the joy,happiness, fun, freedom of expression and general day to day life out of everyone involved.It is incredibly ironic that everyone then strives to get accepted into this set wheneveryone who's already there is so damned miserable most of the time. In fact, the characters areunhappy with their lot and lead a treading-on-eggshells existence because they're terrified out of their wits about any kind of scandal. Obviously scandal of sorts does ensue but everyone dealswith it very nicely, calmly and diplomatically without any mudslinging.
 
Character Analysis
Appearing to be innocent, May is instead ingenious; although she seems self-effacing andis often accused of being vague, May is more astute and insightful, not to mention determined
and dangerous to Newland’s love for Ellen, than he imagines possible for a woman of her 
position.
It’s not Newland and Beaufort deciding who will get Newland, but Ellen and May
deciding who will get Newland.
It is perhaps May’s greatest achievement that she wins him, and
it is perhaps the greatest favor she could possibly have done for Newland.Newlan
d’s inability to act on his desires are more than problematic for both characters,
with increasing frequency and emphasis as the movie progresses, we see that both acquiescenceand refusal prove in some measure disastrous for all of those involved. Especially dangerous isthe fact that he regards both women as creatures who do not act, but who are acted upon. This is
a grave error on Newland’s part. Newland’s family name is Archer, but we recall that it is May
who hits the bullseye in the archery contest at Newport. Archer is, in effect, the target. It is themale character that functions at the center of a social and sexual exchange.May has, throughout the novel, been a convenience for Newland, and not only becauseshe keeps his household running. She becomes the screen onto which he projects all of his ownpetty concerns and narrow beliefs: she is the repository for all he wishes to discard from his ownpersonality but which he nevertheless needs to cling to. She becomes his nicer self, his better half - better insofar as she assumes all the responsibility for convention and so he can do all theradical stuff himself. Onto Ellen, Newland projects his desire for the exotic (as portrayed by theiractions, a nonverbal body communications hinted in the film); onto May, he projects his need for
the domestic. It’s not that these two women are really that far apart, but Newland needs to see
them as diametrically opposed; they represent his own conflicted desires. Both want the samething: to be accepted into society, to feel safe, and to have Newland as the central male figure intheir sexual and romantic lives.Ellen continues to stand outside the social order even when invited in; she remainsuninitiated, inassimilable, and unreliable. She is dangerous because she cannot be counted uponto play her part; she threatens the social order because she is willing to risk leaving the system inorder to be free from it. Ellen seems to be the dangerous, adult orphan, the not-so-young womanof unsettled social standing. Ellen, whose life in Europe hints not only at a failed marriage but atlovers, is presented by the movie as, paradoxically, the most innocent of figures. It is Ellen whobelieves that New York, with its streets so straightforwardly labeled, will itself be easy todecipher. Newland, too, is innocent believing himself to be a man of the world who understandsnot only New York but the ways of life of adult men and women, he discovers that he is beingplayed like a harp by those figures he once dared hold in contempt.Furthermore, symbolically, Newland is the archer whose target is a "new land" in whichhe and Ellen can be together. The pity is that, ultimately, May proves to be the more cunning
 
huntress who cleverly hunts and traps her quarry in the labyrinth of society. Only May - with hernaïve, apparently unrehearsed simplicity - understands how the system really operates. May is noinnocent; she gets her way in the end.Despite their passion, intelligence, and perspective, Ellen and Newland are the innocent
ones here. They find themselves sacrificed to a world which, in today’s time, no longer exists.Having been born “in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing
was never said or done
or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs” the lovers cannot translate their 
relationship into terms both understandable and viable. Newland settles for the life scripted forhim since birth, worshipping at t
he shrine of Ellen’s memory and using the idea of her as an
inoculation against any genuine intimacy in his life. Ellen carves a destiny of her own, andcreates a life of quiet heroism and integrity. Each watches, from a different corner, the passing of an age. They do not mourn
its
passing. The title is, indeed, an ironic comment on the polishedoutward manners of New York society, when compared to its inward machinations.
Communication Analysis
I guess the best model that could represent (or explain) the communication system in themovie is
David Berlo’s Model
:
S
SOURCE
M
MESSAGE
C
CHANNEL
RECEIVER Communication SkillKnowledge AttitudeSociocultural SystemElementStructureContent TreatmentSeeing Hearing  Touching Smelling  Tasting Communication SkillKnowledge AttitudeSociocultural System
 
According to Berlo’s
model, source and receiver are influenced by their personalmakeup of three factors: knowledge, attitude and communication skills. A fourth influence is thesociocultural system of the communicators. Berlo acknowledges the complexity of thecommunication process as evidenced by the influence of several factors on communication (asseen in the table), to include an all-encompassing system -
the communicator’s sociocultural
framework.
 
And the movie is set
among New York City's upper class of the 1870s, before the adventof electric lights, telephones or motor vehicles, there was a small cluster of aristocratic familiesthat ruled New York's social life. To those at the apex of the social world one's occupation orabilities were secondary to heredity and family connections, and one's reputation and outwardappearance was of foremost importance. That is the sociocultural system that greatly affects thekind of communication the characters have.
Conclusion

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