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Ellen Olenska is the grand daughter of Mrs. Manson Mingott. She only became part of the nobility, a Countess, by marrying Count Olenski. Ellen left her marriage, after having lived in Venice, and returned to New York to be with her family. Ellen is a free spirit. She is a great with Archer--the fiance of her cousin-- because she can see beyond the high society of New York. She frees him up to be passionatly himself. She treats Nastasia(the maid) well, not an an inferior. She attends parties with people who have bad reputations. Ellen experiences as great a suffereing as Archer because of their illicit love but she can stand it "at a distance". The love Ellen has for Archer influences all of her life, such as, to stop her divorce and to remain in America. She loves Archer deeply but it is so complicated. She feels obligated to her family. When she knows May is pregnant, she stays away. She doesnt allow Archer to follow her to Europe. She stays away to allow Archer and May to develop a relationship.
She is ambiguous because on the one hand she doesn't mind being the lover of Archer; but on the other hand, she doesn't want to interfere in her cousin May's happiness and life. she loves Archer and doesn't feel it is immoral to see him secretly. But she feels it is immoral to destroy May's happiness. Ellen is conflicted.
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