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Editor’s Note

“Desire & Duty...”

This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic speaks to desire & duty like no novel before or since, with an ending that’ll stay with you forever.
Scribd Editor
The Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece of unfulfilled romance set against the backdrop of old New York.

THIS ENRICHED CLASSIC EDITION INCLUDES:

¥ A concise introduction that gives the reader important background information

¥ A chronology of the author's life and work

¥ A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context

¥ An outline of key themes and plot points to guide the reader's own interpretations

¥ Detailed explanatory notes

¥ Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work

¥ Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction

¥ A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience
Published: Simon & Schuster on
ISBN: 9781416596875
List price: $12.38
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I found Laural Merlington's narration to be excellent, especially her voice of Ellen Olenska.

(listened to May 2013)more
Big characters lashing emotions big and small left and right while at the same time trying to keep very agreeable with the norms of a society busy with busying itself with... itself, mostly. Freedom and individual views are not the norm and are frowned upon, and "innocence" is more or less well-played, but certainly not what is really going on. The futility of the attempts to do as one really pleases teaches the misbehaving ones a lot about the society around them, and about themselves. Wharton plays her characters back and forth, especially the two main ones, until we do not fully understand their motivation. Are their emotions real and what are they? Their actions and reactions are not always easy to comprehend, but still they remain real, and very human-like: failing, lying and cheating. Strong forces and "values" of the society play with characters at will. No one is safe and no one seems to be able to trust his next of kin or friend. The end of innocence happens on many levels and Wharton is particularly skillful in playing with meanings, tones, ironies to show us just how lowly the society has fallen (or has always been).more
I came into this story with a lot of expectations. Basically, I expected it to be about the amorous affair between Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska, his wife's cousin. While it was about their love, it turned out not to be about adultery. Oh yeah, spoiler, sorry. I figure most people already know what this is about because they've seen the movie.

Actually, the movie, which I have not actually seen, is what gave me the wrong idea. The most famous image from the film is of Archer (Daniel Day Lewis) passionately kissing Madame Olenska's (Michelle Pfeiffer's) neck. Thus the assumption that they were getting busy. Anyway, false. Turns out the book is more of a slow-moving look at how society puts constraints on people such that they cannot be with the person they love.

Madame Olenska married a Russian man and turned out to be fabulously unhappy despite her resulting wealth. She ran away to New York, where she fell for her cousin's fiancee. Ellen hoped to obtain a divorce, but her family threatened her with shunning (not the religious kind, just the snooty kind) were she to do so. As a result, Archer could not be with her, even were he willing to leave May Welland and put up with the resulting scandal.

The ending of the book was a bit odd and unsatisfying, the latter of which was likely intended. In the last chapter, you suddenly zoom ahead to the future to see what became of Archer. At first, this didn't make sense to me, but why became evident. Unfortunately, I thought the end was lame. Oh well.

All in all, I'm glad to have gotten through this book, as it was definitely on my list of things to read. I may even try reading the physical book at some point, since I already owned a copy before I was given the audiobook. At any rate, I would rate this far better than the only other Frome novel I have read, Ethan Frome. This may be her most optimistic famous novel, as I believe The House of Mirth is anything but mirthful.more
I wish I could give this 3.5 stars because I definitely liked it more than 3 stars, but not enough to give it 4.

The book is relatively predictable, plotwise. You can kind of tell from the beginning what is going to unfold, but at the same time you keep reading to see what happens next.

I had kind of a love/hate relationship with this book because I loved the potential scandal, but I have such a strong dislike toward adultery. Like such a strong dislike that I ended up kind of liking May the best. I'm pretty sure that isn't what is supposed to happen.more
Read all 112 reviews

Reviews

I found Laural Merlington's narration to be excellent, especially her voice of Ellen Olenska.

(listened to May 2013)more
Big characters lashing emotions big and small left and right while at the same time trying to keep very agreeable with the norms of a society busy with busying itself with... itself, mostly. Freedom and individual views are not the norm and are frowned upon, and "innocence" is more or less well-played, but certainly not what is really going on. The futility of the attempts to do as one really pleases teaches the misbehaving ones a lot about the society around them, and about themselves. Wharton plays her characters back and forth, especially the two main ones, until we do not fully understand their motivation. Are their emotions real and what are they? Their actions and reactions are not always easy to comprehend, but still they remain real, and very human-like: failing, lying and cheating. Strong forces and "values" of the society play with characters at will. No one is safe and no one seems to be able to trust his next of kin or friend. The end of innocence happens on many levels and Wharton is particularly skillful in playing with meanings, tones, ironies to show us just how lowly the society has fallen (or has always been).more
I came into this story with a lot of expectations. Basically, I expected it to be about the amorous affair between Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska, his wife's cousin. While it was about their love, it turned out not to be about adultery. Oh yeah, spoiler, sorry. I figure most people already know what this is about because they've seen the movie.

Actually, the movie, which I have not actually seen, is what gave me the wrong idea. The most famous image from the film is of Archer (Daniel Day Lewis) passionately kissing Madame Olenska's (Michelle Pfeiffer's) neck. Thus the assumption that they were getting busy. Anyway, false. Turns out the book is more of a slow-moving look at how society puts constraints on people such that they cannot be with the person they love.

Madame Olenska married a Russian man and turned out to be fabulously unhappy despite her resulting wealth. She ran away to New York, where she fell for her cousin's fiancee. Ellen hoped to obtain a divorce, but her family threatened her with shunning (not the religious kind, just the snooty kind) were she to do so. As a result, Archer could not be with her, even were he willing to leave May Welland and put up with the resulting scandal.

The ending of the book was a bit odd and unsatisfying, the latter of which was likely intended. In the last chapter, you suddenly zoom ahead to the future to see what became of Archer. At first, this didn't make sense to me, but why became evident. Unfortunately, I thought the end was lame. Oh well.

All in all, I'm glad to have gotten through this book, as it was definitely on my list of things to read. I may even try reading the physical book at some point, since I already owned a copy before I was given the audiobook. At any rate, I would rate this far better than the only other Frome novel I have read, Ethan Frome. This may be her most optimistic famous novel, as I believe The House of Mirth is anything but mirthful.more
I wish I could give this 3.5 stars because I definitely liked it more than 3 stars, but not enough to give it 4.

The book is relatively predictable, plotwise. You can kind of tell from the beginning what is going to unfold, but at the same time you keep reading to see what happens next.

I had kind of a love/hate relationship with this book because I loved the potential scandal, but I have such a strong dislike toward adultery. Like such a strong dislike that I ended up kind of liking May the best. I'm pretty sure that isn't what is supposed to happen.more
The Age of Innocence speaks to the struggle involved in contemplating or actually escaping the family and culture one's born into. It is also an exquisite examination of human emotions and motivations. It's also entertaining.more
In this novel of society and manners, Edith Wharton has sculpted a masterpiece of late 19th C. New York City mores so good that Jane Austen must step aside.Ultimately, within the rich comforts of the smug Social Register set there is no indulgence for an independently operating female, especially a "foreign" one, even if she's family.Newland Archer, engaged then married to the embodiment of NYC perfection in young women, May Wellend, is the starch stiff representative of the best young man NYC can produce until Ellen Olenska, his bride's cousin and herself a woman married but separated from her European husband, arrives.What ensues is a sustained waltz of suppressed emotions within and between Newland and Ellen that are buried under the weight of their conventionality, in his case; moral compunctions, in hers; and the manipulative pressures of their kin and friends determined to maintain the glass smooth surface of appearances against their ambitions to upset the status quo. Everyone's efforts to protect others from the truth and probably harm, to preserve their individual and collective innocence, devolves ironically into an age of conspiracy.Faithful in his body to his wife, Newland divorces himself from her emotionally and spends his "real" life sequestered among his books and memories inside his library. Faithful to her principles, Ellen eventually divorces herself from Newland's presence when she returns to Europe, unable to sustain an existence among those who initially embrace her then subtly push her out of the "tribe." "The Age of Innocence" is a novel about marriage and society that tells us they both are devoted to traditions bent on restricting individuality and killing love. The action is entirely domestic, consisting of meetings in homes, at dinner parties, balls, operas, and stolen moments in carriages and aboard steamers. It is largely internal action that raises tension when the pair break small societal rules, yet are never quite able to sever the restraints that tie them to earlier commitments. The tension spirals upward only to collapse on itself as Newland is incapable of decision and Ellen is disinclined to make him choose.Wharton's novel is atmospheric, period perfect, and damning in the most polite and socially acceptable way. Put it on your Must Read List.more
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