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Discuss Wharton’s presentation of the character development of Newland Archer in this excerpt, commenting on relationships, conflict, irony and social attitudes.

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Introduction

Discuss Wharton's presentation of the character development of Newland Archer in this excerpt, commenting on relationships, conflict, irony and social attitudes. The character of Newland Archer is presented in this passage through his meditations on a range of issues. The scene is set directly after an Archer family dinner with a friend, Sillerton Jackson. Archer's reflections give us a glimpse into the way he thinks and the sort of person he is. Initially we learn about Archer himself and his background, he is from a wealthy family, with ever "vigilant " servants, "bronze" statuettes and his own study. We can also see from the description of the study that he is cultured, intelligent and well read. The passage allows us to see a little of his history, especially of the tale of his romance with May Welland. Her "large photograph" has displaced all others on his table, signifying that she and no other is first in his affections. Archer's view of their impending marriage is initially that he will be her "soul's custodian", showing that it will be a very traditional relationship, that she is na�ve compared to him, and that he must protect and enlighten her. ...read more.

Middle

He sees her as partly as an " artificial product" produced by her family, her up bringing, making her innocent and frank. He feels this is wrong that she has somehow been denied the right to be a full person, as she has been denied the experience of life, social, cultural and sexual, that he has been allowed to explore. He feels what has been created in her personality is false, but somehow we get the impression that this is something that has been hard for him to come across. He sees her as less than him intellectually, as she is not educated as he has been, in the arts and literature, and therefore senses her comprehension is less, when really it may just be her lack of exposure to his amount of learning. Newland Archer's relationship with the women soon to be his cousin through his impending marriage to May, Ellen Olenska, is that this point in the novel, still slight. He knows her partially through acquaintance but mostly through gossip. The way he thinks of her as "Countess" shows the distance and formality between them and he does believe that she has done something reprehensible that requires "championship". ...read more.

Conclusion

The irony betrayed by Edith Wharton's' tone in the presentation of the conscious thoughts of Newland Archer shows the slightly ridiculous nature of New York society. The situation Archer is in regarding his own defence of Countess Olenska is ironic, as he would be forced to condemn May should she ever behave similarly to her cousin. Another irony in the passage is the description of the state of typical New York high society marriages as having an "enviable ideal" when frankly they are in a pitiable state. Lefferts is described as the "high priest of form" when really he has no substance or true beliefs and is truly hypocritical, especially in regard to his treatment of Beaufort's affairs. The behaviour of Mrs Welland's simulated reluctance at the announcement of the engagement when really she expected it is sarcastically commented on showing the double standards between what is said and what is expected throughout New York society. Edith Wharton uses conflicting ideas within Newland Archer's mind to effectively present a man who is changing and developing into a deeper way of thinking about his own life and society in general. ?? ?? ?? ?? Kathryn Oliver - 1 - ...read more.

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