CliffsNotes Wharton's The Age of Innocence

By Susan Van Kirk | Go to book overview

Book 2
Chapters XIX–XX

Summary

Newland stands on the chancel step of Grace Church, waiting for his bride, his mind is utterly in a fog. When Medora Manson enters, Newland strains to see if Ellen has accompanied her, but Ellen has not come. Newland has to be reminded to give May his arm. The ceremony ends and all go to the wedding breakfast.

The couple changes after the wedding breakfast, enjoys the traditional rice shower, and goes to the train station where they will journey to a country estate near Skuytercliff. When they arrive, the van der Luyden’s servant informs them that they will have to use the Patroon’s house because of a water-tank leak. May is excited, but Newland is all the while thinking of his afternoon there last winter with Ellen.

The following autumn finds Newland and May in London, having spent three months touring on their honeymoon. They are invited to dinner with a Mrs. Carfry and her sister, acquaintances of Newland’s mother and sister. May is very uncomfortable and has no interest in exchanging pleasantries with two non-Americans who are strangers. Once back at the hotel, Newland and May discuss the hostesses, their invalid nephew, a vicar and his wife, and a French tutor named M. Riviere. May dismisses the tutor as very “common looking,” but Newland had enjoyed talking with him about Parisian literary figures.


Commentary

Wharton overwhelmingly sets a tone of irony in this wedding where the groom loves someone else. Newland, trapped in this social institution, muddles through the dignified ritual as if it were unreal. He senses the death of his spirit and even imagines the onlookers in their correct pews when he eventually enters the afterlife. Seeing May, he realizes there is no turning back.

Wharton also reveals the values of this society. Newland has handled the obligatory duties of the groom. His choices would all be approved

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CliffsNotes Wharton's The Age of Innocence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Table of Contents iii
  • How to Use This Book iv
  • Life and Background of the Author 1
  • Introduction to the Novel 6
  • Critical Commentaries 13
  • Book 1- Chapter I 14
  • Chapters II-III 17
  • Chapters IV-VI 19
  • Chapters VII-VIII 21
  • Chapters IX-XI 23
  • Chapters XII-XIII 27
  • Chapters XIV-XV 29
  • Chapters XVI-XVII 31
  • Chapter XVIII 33
  • Book 2- Chapters XIX-XX 35
  • Chapters XXI-XXIV 37
  • Chapters XXV-XXVI 41
  • Chapters XXVII-XXX 44
  • Chapters XXXI-XXXIII 48
  • Chapter XXXIV 53
  • Character Analyses 57
  • Critical Essay 62
  • CliffsNotes Review 67
  • Index 73
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