Saturday, February 11, 2012
Newland Archer and Countess Ellen Olenska
From The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. (Click here to read my review.)
(I've read this story only once so I slightly find it confusing.) Newland Archer is looking forward to getting married to May Welland, but very soon May Welland's cousin, Ellen Olenska returns to New York. At first, Newland Archer doesn't care for her, although because of his love for May he tries to help her out.
But when he starts visiting her and starts seeing how different she is than May and that she's liberated and a free-thinker, he starts to fall in love with her and no longer has the same emotions for May. (Newland wants for women to think for themselves instead of thinking by societal expectations.) He starts visiting often, even sending flowers towards her.
However, Ellen's husband, Count Olenski, wants her back, while she wants a divorce. The society of is of 1870s New York (the Old New York.) so if Ellen gets a divorce from her husband, then there will be scandal for the whole family, and they will no longer enjoy their position! Newland Archer wants for Ellen to be his mistress, but she doesn't want that.
He and May marry, but he's no longer in love with May and instead he visits Ellen, even after his marriage, trying to convince her to stay together with the Count. She agrees, but she doesn't want anything sexual however. Newland Archer, then, makes a choice of leaving May for Ellen, but they throw a party for Ellen in leaving for Europe and that very day May tells him she's pregnant.
In the end, Newland stays with May and Ellen leaves for Europe. Years pass, May dies and Newland Archer goes with a son to Europe, for he wants to visit Ellen Olenska. Newland Archer thinks of the past, and waits outside the hotel, but in the end doesn't visit her.
The ending makes me uncomfortable, and I think its one of the books that one has to read more than once to understand it. Like others, I do wish for a happy ending for Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska, but the ending will make it uncomfortable for many people.
Romeo and Juliet qualities:
Probably the fact that everyone will be against the pairing, and neither Newland nor Ellen can't exactly leave their spouses to be together. Also, in the end, neither of them ended up together.