The Age of Innocence
Study Questions and Essay Topics
Why does Wharton include so many material details in her novel?
Several years ago, The Age of Innocence was made into a critically acclaimed film directed by Martin Scorcese. What do you think would be some problems inherent to making a film version of Wharton's novel?
What are some of Newland Archer's character flaws?
Do Newland Archer's character flaws ultimately prevent him from having a relationship with Ellen Olenska? Or was the relationship, weighed down by New York moral codes doomed before it even began?
Is this truly an age of innocence, according to Wharton? If the age itself isn't innocent, were there certain people within New York society who were innocent? In what ways were they innocent?
Is The Age of Innocence a tragedy? Why or why not?
Wharton has often been criticized for making her male protagonists into weak, spineless creatures, dominated by the values and morals of upper class women. In what ways is the New York society of the novel a woman's world?
How does Archer's view of his wife May change throughout the course of the novel?
Describe the differences between Newland's outlook on society and Ellen's. What do their views have in common? On what grounds do they differ?
Why does Old New York fear European culture?
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