Age of Innocence The Author:Edith Wharton Set in the insular upper-class society of New York City in the 1870s, The Age of Innocence tells the story of Newland Archer, a young lawyer who plans to marry the beautiful debutante May Welland. On the eve of their engagement, he meets May's cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, who has fled Europe and an unhappy marriage. Ellen's charm and worldlin... more »ess stire in Archer a longing for life beyond his restrictive upper-class existence. He cannot think of leaving May, yet he continues to pursue Ellen.
Writing from Europe after the first World War, Wharton, who often denounced the social milieu of her upbringing, could find virtues as well as flaws in the old New York society of her memories. As The Nation said when the novel was published in 1920, Wharton describes the customs of a vanished age "as familiarly as if she loved them and as lucidly as if she hated them." The Age of Innocence became an immediate best-seller, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921.« less