Did Edith Wharton intend the reader to feel that Ellen Olenska really loves Archer?
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I believe Ellen really did love Newland Archer, though like many things in literature I guess it is open to interpretation. When you look at the things she did related to Newland, though, it seems pretty clear that she put his (and May's for that matter) happiness above her own. That, for me, is a definition of real love. Ellen cared enough for Newland to know that if he left May for her, he would be such an outcast from society that he could never be happy--he could never be the man he expected of himself, in addition to not being the man society demanded of him. And Ellen despite having gone against some of society's norms (leaving her husband and at one point *almost* starting an affair with Newland, for example), is also more affected by what is expected of her than might be apparent. For example, she pulls back from the proposed affair and leaves when May tells her that she is pregnant.
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