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age of innocence

Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-5 Chapter One Summary: The play opens at the opera. Newland Archer enters his opera box and looks out across the theater to see his girlfriend, May Welland, touch the lilies he had given her. While dreaming of their future together, his thoughts are interrupted by gasps from the gentlemen sitting with him. They are whispering about a fashionably dressed woman who has just sat down in the box with May. Sillerton Jackson gasps, "I did not think they would have tried it on," which means, he cant believe the Mingotts would allow the woman to come and sit in their box at the Opera. Analysis: This is a book about the conventions of "Old New York", New York City in the 1870s. Wharton loves contrasting the old against the new. She begins these contrasts in the very first paragraph. Here she describes the new Opera theater that is going to be erected in the "remote" forties. We can assume that the forties have been built up since then and people reading her book in the 1920s (when it was published) would enjoy hearing about how New York has changed. Along these lines, there is also a description of the old people versus the "new people, whom NY was beginning to dread and yet be drawn to." Also important in this first chapter is Whartons discussion of fashionability and propriety. We can tell from the way that Newland Archer, Lawrence Lefferts and Mr. Silverton Jackson are introduced (all are so concerned with what is "moral" and "the thing") that Wharton will spend a lot of time in the novel discussing and perhaps critiquing these concepts in the book. Of note, as well, is the great attention to detail that Wharton has. The way she describes clothing and interior decoration with much detail has led many to dub this book a "costume novel". We will have to see for ourselves if the book develops beyond being a "bodice ripper" sort of book. May Welland will be one of the most important characters in the book. She...

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