Chapter 8 Notes from The Age of Innocence

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The Age of Innocence Chapter 8

On the night of the van der Luydens' dinner, Archer watches Ellen enter the room. Although New York society generally agreed that she had "'lost her looks,'" Archer rejects that opinion:

"But there was about her the mysterious authority of beauty, a sureness in the carriage of the head, the movement of the eyes, which, without being in the least theatrical, struck him as highly trained and full of a conscious power." Chapter 8, pg. 55-56

The dinner is as formal as can be. Ellen, however, ignores the unspoken social customs expected at such important occasions. After the meal, she talks to the Duke for a while, and then suddenly gets up and leaves him to sit next to Archer. Ellen says that she finds the Duke dull. This last remark pleases Archer; he is excited to find a person whom not only finds this important duke dull, but who is willing to express her opinion.

As they talk, May enters with her mother, and is immediately surrounded by a swarm of guests. Since his fiancée is busy, Ellen urges Archer to stay with her a little longer. When she lightly touches his knee with her fan of feathers, "it thrilled him like a caress." Archer readily agrees, without even realizing the unspoken social rule that he is breaking by talking intimately with her on the sofa.

Mr. van der Luyden comes up to them with a guest who wants to meet Ellen. Archer suddenly realizes that his host disapproves, and quickly offers his seat. As he leaves, Ellen tells him that she expects him to visit the following evening.

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