This month I joined Brona @ Brona's Books for The Wharton Review and made myself read The Age of Innocence. I promise, I did not need to force myself read Wharton; but, often I need prompting to make a decision about what to read next.
Exactly a year ago, I finished The House of Mirth and knew that Wharton was a significant author. However, being a juvenile student of the classics, I focused mainly on the plot, characters, and themes: What is this story about? What do the characters want? What is the author saying to me? In the process, I neglected to digest her beautiful writing style, which is singularly a joy and pleasure to behold. But at the time, I was overwhelmed by having to circle so many words during the reading process. Nonetheless, shortly after completing The House of Mirth, I bought a copy of The Age of Innocence because I knew I wanted to read more.
Now I can definitely say, after reading The Age of Innocence, that this time I fully experienced Edith Wharton's best quality: her delightful use of the English language. She does not use words recklessly. She does not carelessly wrap thoughts or ideas with important words just to make her point bigger than it needs to be. She knows how to articulate her feelings and thoughts beautifully. And because she explains her ideas thoroughly, she does not leave her readers clueless.
What about the plot, characters, and themes?
No spoilers here - not even a hint! But I will opine that The Age of Innocence does not have a complex plot, nor did I find any character entirely heroic or exceptional. Also, Wharton's typical themes included contradictions in high society, conflict with traditional values, duty verses the heart, impressions verses truth, and double standards between men and women. But again, the outstanding aspect of this work is Wharton's exquisite use of language. The Age of Innocence was a breath of fresh air.
I am definitely going to see the film version (starring my favorite actor, Daniel Day Lewis). And then I need a copy of Ethan Frome for the future - or something else by Edith Wharton. Any suggestions?
|Wynona Ryder, as May, in The Age of Innocence|
(She is the picture of innocence.)