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Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence is set in upper-class New York City in the 1870s, during the so-called Gilded Age. The novel, which takes its title from artist Joshua Reynolds’ 1785 painting of a little girl, focuses on impending marriage of an upper-class couple: Newland Archer, a distinguished lawyer, and the shy, but lovely May Welland. Enter the bride's cousin, Ellen Olenska, plagued by a scandalous separation from her European husband, a Polish count. The presence of Ellen, a classic femme fatale, threatens the happiness of Newland and May. However, May’s determination must not be undermined as she proceeds to use everything in her power to ensure her marriage to Newland. Though the novel questions the assumptions and morals of the Gilded Age, it never explicitly condemns the era.  …And perhaps it should have.

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