Chapter 21 Notes from The Age of Innocence

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The Age of Innocence Chapter 21

Archer and May spend their second married summer in Newport, Rhode Island, where all the fashionable people of New York society spend their summers. By this time, Archer has grown more accustomed to married life, and Ellen is a distant memory.

May competes in an archery contest with other young women. Archer watches from the sidelines. As he waits for the contest to begin, the Marchioness Manson comes up to him. When she casually mentions Ellen, Archer feels as though his heart stopped beating. During the year and a half since they last saw each other, Archer had thought little about Ellen, even when her name came up in conversation. This is the first time since his marriage that any mention of Ellen's name has had such a powerful effect on him.

May wins the archery contest. Archer is proud of her, but at the same time finds himself thinking that he still has not opened her eyes to the world, as he had hoped in the days of their engagement.

After the contest, May and Archer visit Mrs. Mingott, who is also vacationing in Newport. Mrs. Mingott calls for Ellen to join them. Archer is caught by surprise; he hadn't known that she would be here. When Ellen doesn't appear, Mrs. Mingott sends Archer down to the shore to find her. Halfway down the bank, he sees a woman standing at the end of the pier.

The woman doesn't turn around; she continues to gaze at the boats on the bay. Archer, as he looks at her, remembers a scene in The Shaughraun in which the man kisses the woman's hair-ribbon without her knowing that he is there. He wonders if Ellen knows that he is watching her. He decides that if she doesn't turn around before a passing sailboat crosses the lighthouse, he will go back without speaking to her.

Archer watches the boat move past the lighthouse, and waits a few moments longer. Ellen still does not move, and he turns around and heads back to May and Mrs. Mingott.

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