The main character of the novel, Newland Archer is a young man who has grown up in New York society. He lives with his widowed mother and his unmarried sister, and is engaged to May Welland. Seeing her as an innocent, he imagines that he will educate her and show her the ways of the world. Because he reads a variety of books, he fancies himself erudite and well-educated, not realizing how much his own thoughts and experiences are limited by his immediate environment. In Chapter One, Wharton writes:
In matters intellectual and artistic Newland Archer felt himself...
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