The Age of Innocence Key Quotations

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  • Created on: 24-01-19 08:54

Chapters 1 and 2


- 'he was at heart a dilettante' - Newland's character is summed up right off the bat. 

- 'a young girl in white' - symbolic of May's purirty and innocence. 

- 'the circle of ladies who were the product of the system' - views on women displayed. 

- 'white-waistcoated...succeeded each other in the club box' - all the men dress the same. 


- Ellen described as the 'black sheep' of the Mingott flock - an outsider. 

- when describing Mrs MM - 'whatever man dared...she would dare' - defies convention

- 'the persons...faint implications and pale delicacies' - no-one says how they truly feel. 

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Chapters 3 and 4


- 'whiteness, radiance, goodness' - triadic structure explains Newland's attraction to May. 

- 'fugitive pressure on her lips' - makes Newland's affection seem almost forceful. 

- 'the world lay like a sunlit valley at their feet' - simile shows optimism from Newland's perspective.

- 'fibbing hastily' - Newland's lie foreshadows the future of their relationship. 


- 'the immense accretion of a flood of lava on a doomed city' - simile describes Mrs MM's physically imposing apperance - immovable and unchanging. 

- 'in flagrant violation of all the New York proprieties' - how Mrs MM decorates her house is different compared to everyone else - but she doesn't care and even revels in it. 

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Chapters 5 and 6


- '"the whole of New York"' - hyperbole from Sillerton Jackson as he shows the dangers of rumour. 

- '"women ought to be free - as free as we are"' - Newland expresses radical views for the time, inspired by his sudden interest in Ellen. Potentially even a moment of mini-anagnorisis for him. 


- marriage described as 'a dull association...held together by ignorance on the one side and hypocrisy on the other' by Newland as he ponders life. 

- 'the unbelievable had happened' - hyperbolic - everyone rejects Mrs MM's invitation to dinner as Ellen is there! 

- '"if we don't all stand together, there'll be no such thing as Society left"' - Mrs Archer expresses her thoughts on the closeness of New York '"Society"' - capitilisation shows significance. 

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Chapters 7, 8 and 9


- Mr van der Luyden (top dog of New York society) described as a 'sovereign' - regal description. 


- 'they struck him as curiously immature compared with hers' - Newland describes Ellen's eyes. 

- '"I think he's the dullest man I ever met"' - Ellen's bluntness about the Duke of St. Austrey is something Newland likes - attracted to her honestly in a world of lies. 

- 'it was the lightest touch, but it thrilled him like a caress' - Ellen touches his knee and Newland gets a little too excited - use of simile.


- 'the young man felt that his fate was sealed' - Newland trapped in an unhappy marriage. 

- 'there was something too rich, too strong, in their fiery beauty' - Newland buys Ellen flowers. 

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Chapters 10, 11 and 12


- 'haunting horror of doing the same thing every day' - Newland can't face that existence.

- '"sameness - sameness!"' - Newland comments on the horrors of conformity and and New York. 


- New York personified as 'a society wholly absorbed in barricading itself against the unpleasant'.


- '"I want to cast off all my old life, to become just like everybody else here"' - irony from Ellen. 

- '"But my freedom - is that nothing?"' - Ellen's interrogative almost seems like a direct address to the reader.

- Ellen's hands described as 'cold and lifeless' - symbolic of the divide between her and Newland. 

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Chapters 13, 14 and 15


- Ellen's acceptance of Newland's gift at the opera fills him with 'agitated pleasure' - oxymoronic


- '"you'll never amount to anything, any of you"' - Newland's bro Ned Winsett acts as a spokesman for the thoughts of the reader

- 'women always exaggerated' - Newland's roast of women shows he is conflicted - views on women shown again.


- 'Beaufort was vulgar, he was uneducated' - Newland disses his rival for Ellen's affections, written from Newland's point of view however, unsure if true. 

6 of 16

Chapters 16 and 17


- 'here was truth, here was reality' - Newland deludes himself into thinking he is happy with May, ironic considering his views expressed earlier. 

- '"we all knew that you were thinking of May"' - dramatic irony on behalf of Mrs Welland. 

-'"Don't you understand how I want you for my wife?"' interrogative - Newland lies to himself. 

-'"you musn't think that a girl knows as little as her parents imagine"' - the first clue that May knows what's going on between Newland and Ellen - empowering to women.


- Newland describes Medora Manson as a 'messenger of Satan' as she brings news from Count Olenski - metaphor and proper noun usage significant. 

- '"I would rather see her dead!"' - exclamation shows characterisation of Newland - he becomes protective of Ellen after she may have to return to Olenski. 

7 of 16

Chapters 18, 19 and 20


- 'she gave him back all his kiss' - Newland's kiss with Ellen contrasts sharply (is more passionate) than the kiss Newland shares with his wife. 


- 'real people were living somewhere, and real things happening to them...' - repetition of 'real' makes it seem as if Newland perceives his life to be fake as he is set to marry May. 


- 'less trouble to conform with the tradition' - shows the cyclical nature of the conformist society in which Newland lives - he feels trapped by it. 

8 of 16

Chapters 21, 22 and 23


- '"monotony; it's the mother of all the deadly sins"' (MEDORA MANSON) - personification of 'monotony' is dramatically ironic as it represents everything wrong with Newland's lifestyle. 


- 'wooden Cupid who had lost his bow and arrow' - the 'Cupid' in this sentence is symbolic of Ellen and Newland's relationship at this point in the novel. 


- Newland believes that him and Ellen are embarking on a 'long voyage from which they might never return' - foreshadowing through the use of metaphor

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Chapters 24 and 25


- '"we've no character, no colour, no variety"' (NEWLAND) - the use of caesura in an already very impactful sentence heightens the sense of dramatic effect - Newland expresses his distaste for the ideals of 1870s New York society to Ellen - a moment of pure passion

- '"you won't go back - you won't go back?"' (NEWLAND) - repetition of this phrase (with the second repetition taking the form of a question) shows Newland's desperation to be with Ellen as she promises not to return to Count Olenski, again extremely passionate. Pleading


- Newland begins to feel as if he is 'clinging to the edge of a sliding precipice' as his entire world begins to crumble around him.

10 of 16

Chapters 26 and 27


- 'Absent - that was what he was' - caesura heightens this point of mini-anagnorisis for Newland as the narrator expresses his immense unhappiness at his current state of affairs. 

- 'breathed on the sulky flame' - May's action here is symbolic of her 'extinguishing' the light of her's and Newland's love, as the ambiguity surrounding whether May knows about his affair with Ellen gradually becomes to be lifted. 


- Beaufort has '"covered you with jewels...covered you with shame"' (MRS MM) - highlights hypocrisy of Regina Beaufort as she threatens to leave Beaufort due to economic issues and also the importance that New York society places on reputation and wealth. 

11 of 16

Chapters 28 and 29


- Newland belives that 'clever liars give details, but that the cleverest do not' - reflective of the states of many marriages at this time - built on deceit and lies


- '"I've had to look at the Gorgon"' (ELLEN) - Ellen explains the bad times in her life using metaphor

- Newland wishes to escape with Ellen to a place where '"words like that - categories like that - won't exist"' - to run away from convention

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Chapter 30


- 'the deadly monotony of their lives' - Newland realises how dull his life with May truly is, describes it as 'deadly'. Links to the earlier quotation from Medora Manson about monotony being the mother of all the deadly sins. 

- 'she was simply ripening into a copy of her mother' (in relation to May) - reinforces the idea that was posited in chapter 1 that all women are the same and the 'product of the system'.

- '"I shall never be happy unless I can open the windows!"' - windows symbolic of freedom, a detail that is alluded to by Newland in this exclamative

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Chapters 31 and 32


- 'lie in every touch...lie in every caress...lie in every word' - parallelism used as Newland contemplates the state of marriage in this period. 

- Newland describes himself as being caught up in a 'turmoil of contradictory feelings' - a succint summation of his feelings throughout the novel which he provides for himself. 

- 'the open door had closed between them again' - metaphorical description of May and Newland's relationship makes it seem as if there is a constant barrier between him and her. 


- 'she was all in white' - brings the story full circle as May is wearing the same colour as she was in chapter 1 - symbolic of a perceived lack of development which is made obsolete by the end of the chapter?

- 'her torn and muddy wedding-dress' - symbolic of the state of their marriage by the end of the chapter, a power play by May. 

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Chapter 33


- May represents the 'embodied image of the Family' - capitalisation of noun 'Family' important. 

- 'to all of them he and Madame Olenska were lovers' - Newland has another moment of anagnorisis - looks round the table and realises that many people know about his affair. 

- 'people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage' - Newland expresses his point of view on the denizens of New York. 

- Newland describes himself as being able to feel 'his heart stopping' when May announces her pregnancy to him - but not in a good way. Use of cliché.

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Chapter 34


- 'he would always be...a dilettante' - adjective 'dilettante' is cyclical in relation to first chapter. 

- 'What was left of the little world he had grown up in?' - rhetorical question as Newland reflects. 

- '"Wasn't she - once - your Fanny?"' (DALLAS) - Newland learns of the widespread knowledge of his affair with Ellen through his son, Dallas, use of dramatic pause

- 'Dallas belonged body and soul to the new generation' - shows society in change. 

- '"You never did ask each other anything, did you?"' (DALLAS) - Dallas sums up what was wrong with Newland and May's marriage. 

- 'packed regrets and stifled memories of an inarticulate lifetime' - adjective 'inarticulate' significant as Newland reflects on his life - so much he wanted to express which he couldn't. 

- '"It's more real to me here than if I went up"'  (NEWLAND) - Newland has a chance to reunite with Ellen 30 years later but doesn't, prefers memory to reality - symbolic of divide. 

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