The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence


Edith Wharton

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The Age of Innocence Characters

Newland Archer

Archer, a young gentleman of New York high society, is the protagonist of The Age of Innocence. The novel opens with his engagement to May Welland, whom he eventually marries, but he also… read analysis of Newland Archer

Ellen Olenska

Ellen is an independent, unconventional woman who falls in love with Archer, despite being the cousin of Archer’s fiancée May. Though Ellen lived in New York for some time when she was young… read analysis of Ellen Olenska

May Welland

May is Archer’s fiancée and then his wife. She is a kind, simple, and beautiful girl known for her athleticism. May is the embodiment of the female ideal in New York high society; she… read analysis of May Welland

Mrs. Catherine Mingott

Mrs. Mingott is the elderly matriarch of the Mingott family and grandmother to May and Ellen. She has always been unconventional and she built her house far away from the rest of the wealthy… read analysis of Mrs. Catherine Mingott

Mrs. Adeline Archer

Newland Archer’s mother. Mrs. Archer represents the staunchly traditional view of the world. She never questions society’s rules and she laments the changes that she sees happening around her. Although she hardly ever goes… read analysis of Mrs. Adeline Archer
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Janey Archer

Newland Archer’s rather socially awkward sister, Janey has never married and seems to have no prospects of marriage. As a virgin, she must keep up appearances of innocence, and her presence in a room… read analysis of Janey Archer

Mrs. Welland

May’s mother and Mrs. Mingott’s daughter. Mrs. Welland holds very traditional views of the world and, as such, she trains her daughter to be unassailably innocent. Mrs. Welland wants most of all to… read analysis of Mrs. Welland

Mr. Welland

May’s father. Mr. Welland is an invalid—or, at least, he believes himself to be. He focuses almost exclusively on his supposed illness and he drags his family to St. Augustine every summer for his… read analysis of Mr. Welland

Dallas Archer

Newland Archer’s eldest son, with whom he takes a trip to Europe at the end of the book. Dallas, born twenty-six years after Archer’s affair with Ellen, represents the new generation of New… read analysis of Dallas Archer

Medora Manson

Medora is one of Mrs. Mingott’s daughters and Ellen’s aunt, who became Ellen’s guardian after the deaths of Ellen’s parents. Medora is one of the most eccentric members of society and she is… read analysis of Medora Manson

Mr. Sillerton Jackson

Mr. Jackson is one of the prominent members of New York society and he prides himself on knowing everything about everyone else in New York society, particularly scandals of the past and present. Mrs. Archerread analysis of Mr. Sillerton Jackson

Julius Beaufort

Mr. Beaufort is an English banker who has frequent affairs, most prominently with a prostitute named Miss Fanny Ring. Most of society doesn’t quite trust him because he’s a foreigner of uncertain origin and he’s… read analysis of Julius Beaufort

Mrs. Regina Beaufort

Mrs. Beaufort is married to Julius Beaufort. People would look down on her for this, but she was born into a prestigious family, and this heritage bolsters her in society no matter what her… read analysis of Mrs. Regina Beaufort

Mrs. Louisa van der Luyden

Mrs. Archer’s cousin. She and her husband, Mr. Henry van der Luyden, are two of the most powerful influences in society. However, they’re quite shy and they prefer to remain in seclusion at… read analysis of Mrs. Louisa van der Luyden

Mr. Henry van der Luyden

Mr. van der Luyden and his wife, Mrs. Louisa van der Luyden, are two of the most powerful influences in society. However, they’re quite shy and prefer to remain in seclusion at Skuyterkill, their… read analysis of Mr. Henry van der Luyden

Lawrence Lefferts

Lefferts is considered the utmost authority on “form” in New York society. He’s a fashionable, good-looking young man who likes to think that he sets an example for other young men to follow. However, his… read analysis of Lawrence Lefferts

Ned Winsett

Winsett is one of Archer’s few intellectual friends, and he is part of the artistic set rather than part of high society. Winsett tried and failed to support himself through literary writing, and now… read analysis of Ned Winsett

M. Rivière

A French schoolmaster whom Archer meets in London. Archer finds him intellectually engaging, but May thinks him too socially inferior for them to associate with. He’s considering moving to New York for the intellectual life… read analysis of M. Rivière

Dr. Agathon Carver

A friend of Medora Manson, Dr. Carver runs the Valley of Love community, which is a fictionalized version of the numerous experimental communities in New England in the late nineteenth century. These groups shunned… read analysis of Dr. Agathon Carver

Mrs. Lemuel Struthers

Mrs. Struthers throws Sunday parties to which she invites intellectuals and artists. These parties aren’t considered proper for members of high society to attend, and Mrs. Struthers is considered “common” because her husband made his… read analysis of Mrs. Lemuel Struthers
Minor Characters
Miss Sophy Jackson
Sillerton Jackson’s maiden sister, who lives with him. She helps him gather all the gossip of society.
The Duke of St. Austrey
A British aristocrat to whom the van der Luydens are distantly related. He comes to visit them and causes a stir with his disregard for the rules of New York society. His attitude represents the relative liberalism of European society as opposed to the strictness of Americans.
Mr. Letterblair
The lawyer who is Archer’s employer. He subscribes to traditional moral values and asks Archer to convince Ellen not to divorce her husband.
Miss Blenker
Archer runs into the young Miss Blenker when he goes to the Blenkers’ house to see where Ellen is living in Rhode Island. Miss Blenker tries vaguely to flirt with him.
Ellen’s maid.