The reading of Edith Wharton’s ‘The Age of Innocence‘ was long overdue for me. I admit I found the beginning a little tedious with the never-ending list of characters, the detailed description of New York City’s elite society at the end of the century with all its traditions, rituals and judgemental morality. The story follows Newland Archer’s, the POV character, struggle to live up to the expectations set up by his bourgeois family and marry the sweet, conventional, May Welland, while secretly longing to run off with Countess Ellen Olenska, a married woman who defies the status quo.
Family and social expectations conflict with Newland’s and Ellen’s wish for a more passionate life away from the rigidity of high society. Newland must choose, his wife or his lover. His choice will determine the path his life will take.
We meet up with him years later, widowed and father of three children. The memories of his emotional struggles are still with him. Is there regret, or the urge to start over where he left off?
The ending is both thought-provoking and poignant. This wonderful story, written over 100 years ago, is still prevalent today. Life’s demands have a tendency to erode the passions and struggles, which in our youth we were ready to die for. All that is left is the memory of a beating heart.