*deafening silence of no one caring*
Ahem. Moving On. So, due to the crappiness that is college, I don’t read as much as I used to, and even if I do read, I rarely manage to finish things. I did recently finish one book though.
The Age Of Innocence is a really, really well- written novel about New York society in the 1870s. I love the fact that the author was there, experiencing some of these things and seeing them first hand. It makes all the social commentary so much more believable.
The narrator is Newland Archer, a young man who has lived in the New York high society all his life and is well-acquainted with its customs,rules and traditions and loves them dearly. He loves his city and his society. The book opens with the announcement of his engagement to May Welland, a ‘proper’ young woman, who has been raised to play any role that is required of her, the blushing bride, the innocent girl, the doting wife. The announcement is hastened by the arrival of Ellen Olenska or Countess Olenska and her scandalous past. She makes Newland question his society and the way it works. After meeting her, he sees the shallowness and hypocrisy that prevails in it. The things that contented him and the things that he considered accomplishments, such as his engagement, seem to mean less than they used to and he begins to fear the fact that he may have to play a certain role and be stuck in a rut of conventionality (?) for all his life.
The author sketches interesting characters, all of which have personalities that are three-dimensional, even the supporting characters.
Some of my favorite quotes;
“‘Women ought to be free – as free as we are,’ he declared, making a discovery of which he was too irritated to measure the terrific consequences.”
– Book 1, Chapter 5, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
“In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs; as when Mrs Welland, who knew exactly why Archer had pressed her to announced her daughter’s engagement at the Beaufort ball (and had indeed expected him to do no less), yet felt obliged to simulate reluctance, and the air of having her hand forced, quite as, in the books on Primitive Man that people of advanced culture were beginning to read, the savage bride is dragged with shrieks from her parents’ tent.”
– Book One, Chapter 6, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
“It would presently be his task to take the bandage from this young woman’s eyes, and bid her look forth on the world. But how many generations of the women who had gone to her making had descended bandaged to the family vault? He shivered a little, remembering some of the new ideas in his scientific books, and the much-cited instance of the Kentucky cave-fish, which had ceased to develop eyes because they had no use for them. What if, when he had bidden May Welland to open hers, they could only look out blankly at blankness?”
– Book One, Chapter 10, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
“His whole future seemed suddenly to be unrolled before him; and passing down its endless emptiness he saw the dwindling figure of a man to whom nothing was ever to happen.”
– Book 1, Chapter 22, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
“She had spent her poetry and romance on their short courting: the function was exhausted because the need was past. Now she was simply ripening into a copy of her mother, and mysteriously, by the very process, trying to turn him into a Mr. Welland.” Chapter 30
“There was no use in trying to emancipate a wife who had not the dimmest notion that she was not free; and he had long since discovered that May’s only use of the liberty she supposed herself to possess would be to lay it on the altar of her wifely adoration.” Chapter 20
“In the rotation of crops there was a recognised season for wild oats; but they were not to be sown more than once.”
– Book 2, Chapter 31, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
“There were certain things that had to be done, and if done at all, done handsomely and thoroughly; and one of these in the old New York code, was the tribal rally around a kinswoman about to be eliminated from the tribe.”
– Book 2, Chapter 33, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
Believe it or not, some of the things that happen in Newland’s society still happen today in India. I didn’t think they did,not in the cities anyway, but people at college have made me think otherwise. But, that’s another post. Anyway, this book is a must read!
In other related news, I’m reading Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory at the moment and the book is slightly disturbing, to say the least, but I can’t seem to put it down! Lets see how far I can make it before my hatred of the protagonist makes me chuck the book across the room or something.
That’s all I guess. Later my people.
PS: Only 5 days till the blog’s 2nd Birthday! Yay!