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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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. Archer… (read full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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 full character analysis)
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.
The lawyer who is Archer’s employer. He subscribes to traditional moral values and asks Archer to convince Ellen not to divorce her husband.
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.