The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence

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Wedding Dress Symbol Analysis

Wedding Dress Symbol Icon

May’s wedding dress represents, rather obviously, the state of her marriage with Archer. It’s customary for brides to wear their wedding dresses a few times in the years immediately after their weddings, and May wears hers to the opera on the night that Archer decides to tell her he’s leaving her. On the way home, just before Archer tries to be honest with May about his feelings for Ellen, she catches her wedding dress in the carriage door, and it tears and gets dirty. Thus, throughout the following scene, in which Archer does not confess his betrayal to May, but instead finds out that Ellen is moving to Europe, May’s torn and soiled wedding dress represents the destruction of their marriage, even though the marriage is still intact according to law and custom.

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Wedding Dress Symbol Timeline in The Age of Innocence

The timeline below shows where the symbol Wedding Dress appears in The Age of Innocence. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 20
The Rules of Society Theme Icon
American vs. Foreign Theme Icon
...American. May doesn’t know what it’s proper to wear. He suggests that she wear her wedding dress , but she doesn’t have it with her. (full context)
Chapter 32
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
The Failure of Marriage Theme Icon
Change and Progress Theme Icon
...who is wearing white as she did on that night, but he realizes it’s her wedding dress . It’s customary for brides to wear their wedding dresses a few times in the... (full context)
The Failure of Marriage Theme Icon
At the door of their house, May catches her wedding dress on the carriage and tears it. She and Archer go upstairs to the library. May... (full context)
The Failure of Marriage Theme Icon
The Rules of Society Theme Icon
...hand to her cheek, then says her head aches too and leaves with her torn wedding dress dragging behind her. (full context)