Notes on The Age of Innocence Themes

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The Age of Innocence Topic Tracking: Power

Topic Tracking: Power

Chapter 4

Power 1: May and Archer have very different ideas about when the wedding should take place. Archer wants to be married as soon as possible; May and her mother want a long engagement because it's what New York society considers fashionable and appropriate. Archer and May are locked in a power struggle over the outcome. Mrs. Manson Mingott complicates the matter when she sides with Archer.

Chapter 6

Power 2: The members of New York society join forces to show Ellen that she is not welcome. Together, they can purposely make life difficult for her. When almost all of the invitations to Ellen's welcome dinner are declined, the Mingott family begins to realize the powerful forces working against Ellen.

Chapter 7

Power 3: The van der Luydens are among the most powerful members of New York society. Mrs. Archer turns to them as a last resort to help restore the reputation of her son's future family after New York society refuses to attend Ellen's welcome dinner. The van der Luydens agree to repair the damage by inviting Ellen to a special dinner in honor of a visiting European Duke. In this way, the van der Luydens use their influence to make the community accept Ellen.

Chapter 9

Power 4: Archer, like the rest of New York society, has always held the van der Luydens in awe. Ellen thinks that the secret to the van der Luydens' social power lies in their refusal to consistently attend parties and mingle with society. For the most part, they tend to ignore social events except in rare cases, such as the small party they throw to welcome Ellen. This idea had never occurred to Archer before; Ellen's theory makes him look at the power structure of New York society in a new way.

Chapter 10

Power 5: During their walk in Central Park, Archer tries to convince May to agree to an earlier wedding. May likes to daydream about married life, but she can't even begin to fathom that it could take place as soon as the following month. Her imagination, in large part, is due to the enormous amount of power and influence that Mrs. Welland holds over her.

Chapter 12

Power 6: When Ellen seeks a divorce from Count Olenski, Mr. Letterblair sends Archer to change her mind. Despite his own confusion about the matter, Archer has the power to convince Ellen to drop the divorce. The Mingot family is also an influence in her decision; she decides to let go of the divorce mostly because she doesn't want to bring shame to her family.

Chapter 16

Power 7: In St. Augustine, May makes Archer a generous and courageous offer: she offers to release him from their engagement so that he might marry the woman he truly loves. For a few seconds, May seems mature and far more powerful than the young girl that Archer perceives her to be. Yet she quickly loses this aura of maturity as soon as Archer assures her that he loves only her.

Chapter 18

Power 8: Ellen receives a telegram from May, saying that she and Archer will be married after Easter. All of Archer's attempts to convince May and Mrs. Welland to an earlier wedding amount to nothing. In the end, Mrs. Mingott and Ellen, not Archer, have the power to convince May and Mrs. Welland to move up the day of the wedding.

Chapter 20

Power 9: M. Rivière fascinates Archer, who wishes to invite him to dinner. May, however, cannot imagine why Archer would want to dine with someone she considers common. Her sense of disbelief is so strong that Archer quickly changes his mind. As he does so, he realizes the amount of power that May will hold over their marriage, including the people with whom he is and is not allowed to socialize.

Chapter 27

Power 10: When Julius Beaufort's bank is in jeopardy, Regina Beaufort turns to Mrs. Manson Mingott for help. She tries to convince her aunt to use her powerful influence in New York society to convince Julius's banking customers to remain loyal, and thus to save the bank from financial ruin. Mrs. Mingott refuses to show her support. By doing so, she has the power to turn Julius and Regina Beaufort into disgraced social outcasts.

Chapter 33

Power 11: When May suspects that Archer and Ellen might be having an affair, she tells Ellen about her pregnancy even before she is certain. Ellen decides to leave in order to give the new family a chance for happiness. May has the ultimate victory; she is the one who has the power to drive Ellen away from Archer.

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