2. The Age of Innocence (1920): Bildung and the Ethics of Desire

  1. James Phelan

Published Online: 1 APR 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118512876.ch2

Reading the American Novel 1920-2010

Reading the American Novel 1920-2010

How to Cite

Phelan, J. (2013) The Age of Innocence (1920): Bildung and the Ethics of Desire, in Reading the American Novel 1920-2010, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118512876.ch2

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 APR 2013
  2. Published Print: 10 APR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780631230670

Online ISBN: 9781118512876

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Keywords:

  • Edith Wharton;
  • ethical judgments;
  • novel;
  • psychological study;
  • The Age of Innocence

Summary

Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence appeared just 2 years after the end of World War I, yet the novel seems to avoid the War. Wharton's progression still emphasizes psychological preferences—and the ethical choices of its three main characters—and that, in doing so, it not only foregrounds the mimetic components of their characters but significantly complicates the view of the Newland—Ellen relationship as a “seemingly ideal romance.” This chapter develops the consequences of this view by contrasting Wharton's three sketches of the main action with the published novel, and then by taking closer looks at (1) the novel's beginning; (2) key scenes in the voyage; and (3) the novel's two-stage resolution.